Posted by: Johan Normark | September 9, 2011

Hyper-objects, the hydrological cycle and political affect at Yo’okop

In my new project on water as an archaeological object I have already jumped into my first case study in an effort to get a firmer grasp of object oriented ontology (ooo). This first case study is supposed to become an article sometime in the near future.

It is as a fluid we have been used to conceptualize water. Water has become synonymous with the fluidity of the world of becoming. Heraclitus famously stated that “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. In this perspective time and sometimes even space flows just like water. Water has been a substance difficult to control as it leaks, evaporates, flood, etc. Its lines of flight have been many.

In this article, and in my project overall, I attempt to use this liquid to turn things upside down, to stop the habit of seeing it as a flow. What happens if we see it as an object isolated from its relations to its own past and to other entities, with withdrawn qualities? Water can become part of a greater object that remains intact despite its internal changes. The hydrological cycle can be conceptualized as a hyperobjectthat is widely distributed in time and space. Local manifestations never reveal the whole object itself. Rain drops falling in Yo’okop’s aguada reveals part of this cycle but we never experience the hydrological cycle itself. The “cycle” itself is not a fluid, its exteriority does not change. Nowhere and everywhere will you find the hydrological cycle. The real hydrological cycle is hidden and withdrawn so it is only the sensual object we encounter when rain falls, water runs down hills and mixes with the aguada water, the sun evaporates aguada water to join the clouds above.

Human bodies take part of the hydrological cycle as 2/3 of our body temporarily keeps water bound up into other objects. When we sweat, urinate, bleed, vomit, becomes dehydrated, dies, etc. this is part of the greater hydrological cycle as well.

In this article and in the greater case study (I will also deal with caves), the hyper-object of water cycle will face other hyper-objects. Such a hyper-object of interest here is kingship or ajawlel. These two hyper-objects are crucial in the settlement layout, inscriptions and iconography of the object known as Yo’okop. In short, the archaeological site of Yo’okop will be seen from a hydrocentric perspective rather than the traditional anthropocentric perspective.


  1. Interesting! One can also add that the flow of water is really the flow of a body of water (a river etc) under influence of another body (for example the gravitational pull of the earth).

  2. However, would not the earth be a “normal” object and the hyrdological cycle a hyperobject?

    • I guess that would explain, that when Moses hit the rock with his stick north of Petra, and 12 fountain of water gushed out from the rock, like
      Niagara Falls, for the 12 tribes of Israel to drink, and cook and bathe in the desert, and for the children and animals,
      And up until now, No archaeologist ever explained, how Moses made water from a rock for 2.5 million people in the desert for 40 years.

      • Do archaeologists need to explain a Biblical myth? That is fiction.

  3. Johan, can you give me the dumbed down definition of a “hyper object”? The problem I think I have with your interpretation is that I can take x amount of water and do terrible and wonderful things to it, such as vaporizing it to atoms, or even beyond, and while I have destroyed my portion, that does not affect in any way the rest of this “hyper object”. So I am having a trouble seeing how it qualifies as any sort of “object”.

    I also wonder about your use of the word “withdrawn”. You say the hydrological cycle is “withdrawn” but that word suggests to me that this cycle could be otherwise. But what would that mean? And I wonder about your hydrocentric vs. anthropocentric perspective on Yo’okop. I look forward to the paper when you get it done!

  4. Basically it is an object widely distributed in time and space. In a recent article Levi Bryant describe “class” as a hyperobject. It is nothing that we can touch but it is still real and affect the way we behave and can behave. It is also existing before us and will do so after we have died. We only become part of it. Morton, who I think invented the idea, use climate as an example. Rain drops are example of climate as a hyperobject. I think one could say that culture, such as Maya culture or Classic Maya culture, is a hyperobject (widely extended across space and time). Water, in my example, is both an object (such as the water in your glass) and a hyperobject (part of a hydrological cycle that prexist the water in the glass).

    Withdrawn relates to Harman’s interpretation of Heidegger’s famous hammer. Water is a real object but we only have access to sensual objects. The sensual qualities of water for a fish, such as containing oxygen for the fish to “breath” is withdrawn from me since I breath oxygen from air. If I try to breath water I will drown, etc.

    We’ll see where I end up with my hydrocentric perspective…


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