Posted by: Johan Normark | August 29, 2013

Reviewing reviewers

Receiving reviews is often good as it helps one to see what part(s) of a manuscript needs to be clarified. A reviewer is seldom an expert on all parts of the text he/she reads. I have recently received two reviews of an article of mine that show just that. The article in question is an attempt at applying an object-oriented perspective on water in various archaeological contexts. However, I also include some Deleuzean ideas in my theoretical tool kit. Harman’s object-oriented philosophy sees Deleuzean virtuality as an example of undermining objects. Thus, Harman and Deleuze propose quite different ontologies. Hence, I contribute to the theoretical issues I appropriate. Still, this “appears” to reviewer #1 as a mechanical application but it is all too obvious that the reviewer has never read any of the object-oriented philosophers I use. 

The same reviewer also finds a “wonderful irony” regarding the issue of meaning (most of the comment is clearly about that). This statement is based on what I would call a correlationist misunderstanding. What caused this remark is that I am saying, at the end of the article, that reality is not meaningful. However, the reviewer argues that I still try to convey meaning with my theoretical approach. What I am basically referring to is the withdrawal of reality/real objects that I have talked about in the article. The world is always an interpretation, only meaningful to the observer as a sensual object. Hence, meaning is only dependent on the interpreter, it is nothing preexisting. But this is not only a human condition (the common correlationist fallacy), it is an ontological condition of all objects. This is an article attempting to see things from a hydrocentric perspective, rather than the normal anthropocentric perspective that preoccupy the two reviewers. Therefore, the text is ordered in another way. It is only poorly organized, as the second reviewer remarks, from his/her preconceived anthropocentric understanding.

Reviewer #1 also argues that I basically re-label things. That is only partially true. I re-label things from one coherent ontology instead of using the multitude of disparate “ontologies” that one finds in archaeological texts. Hydrology and kingship, two critical concepts for the article, are usually not treated from the same set of categories. The first is “nature” and the latter is “culture” and “constructed” but in my perspective they are all part of the same reality. I clearly should have begun the article with a description of the correlationist circle. It will take some time to break this circle in archaeology and particularly in Mayanist studies… 


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