Posted by: Johan Normark | November 26, 2014

TAG – Manchester

The timetable for this year’s TAG conference (Manchester) is now available. I will give a paper in the session “Assemblage and Archaeology” on Tuesday afternoon, December 16, 2014. Here is my updated abstract.

Temporality, assemblages and Black Swans

Levi Bryant defines time as the duration a machinic assemblage needs to produce an output. The rate of production depends on the assemblage. Since Bryant follows the Bergsonian/Deleuzean order of time, where past and present are merged into a creative flow, the future is not included. Tristan Garcia proposes an order where the present comes first, followed by the past which has less degree of presence. Last comes future which has maximal absence. Future is only a fixed point of reference. Yet, it is this inexistent future cognitive assemblages attempt to predict. Calendar systems are tools for prediction, acting both as bright objects and incorporeal machines in Bryant’s terminology.

As the past of an assemblage grows it becomes more determined which means that origins are open but later trajectories follows the constraints, entanglements and gravity formed by the assemblage itself. Its predicted future becomes increasingly narrower until the assemblage ceases to produce. This end is often an unexpected Black Swan event to the assemblage itself whereas archaeologists, in hindsight, insert a narrative behind the demise. One such narrative is the Maya collapse. Resilience theories and Holling’s adaptive cycle are used as narratives to explain why the “Classic Maya Civilization” reorganized rather than collapsed. To the “post-collapse” Maya themselves the disruptions in assemblages related to the Classic period divine kingship led to a change in the calendar systems. Future was no longer a fixed point in a failed accumulative calendar, but a recurrent point in a cyclical calendar.


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