National Geographic reports on an interesting discovery of a possible 16th or 17th century mural in a house in Chajul, Guatemala. The figures on the mural wear a mixture of Maya and Spanish garb.
Rosemary Joyce writes about a website (Genderanalyzer) that from the content of a blog analyzes the gender of the blogger (or is it the blog itself?). I made the test myself and they think that this blog is written by man (but they are only 79% sure). Is it because I write about climate change, Maya warfare, male-dominated object-oriented ontology, 2012, etc.? What makes them 21% not sure? My gender studies?
I entered the website’s own address to see if it can analyze itself. It did not work since an error occurred in the analysis: “Sorry, we could not extract enough text from http://genderanalyzer.com/. We could only find 178 words. We need more than 300 words to analyze a web page. More text gives better result!” Since the creators of the website have Swedish names I can make a 100% accurate analysis without the help of the website. Genderanalyzer is written by two men…
On facebook I saw this image and a quote of Stephen Colbert that reminds me of Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of order-words in A Thousand Plateaus. Order-words refer to the capacity to create commitments through statements. It is not related to the communicative functions of language but rather the impersonal transmission of statements.
For people to obey they must believe in the legitimacy of the claims to authority expressed by these commands. A teacher gives order and commands. These are not external or additional to what is being taught. An order concerns earlier orders and hence ordering is redundancy. Order-words are not communicated, they impose semiotic coordinates on a child. Therefore, language is made to be obeyed and to compel obedience. A rule of grammar is a marker of power before it becomes a syntactical marker. Colbert is therefore right that arbitrary rules make us disciplined. They do not teach us logic. Religion and politics are made to make us disciplined. Unfortunately, science also tends to follow order-words. There is probably no way around that.
We can apply order-words on historical and archaeological data as well since order-words are dated. For instance, declaration of war expresses an instant incorporeal transformation of bodies. Farmers turn into soldiers, friends into enemies. Its instantaneousness gives it a power of variation in relation to the bodies. The order-word is a death sentence since it brings death to the identity of those who receive the order. It is also a warning to flee. In this light, the order-words to turn to Christianity or to congregate Maya settlements expressed by the Spanish missionaries triggered flight in Colonial period Mexico. The slow emergence of Maya reducido (William Hanks term for the Colonial Maya language adapted to Christianity) ultimately reduced the lines of flight and territorialized the Spanish empire and the later Mexican state.
Since I will be participating in Per Cornell’s project on the Early Modern Town next year I should mention that the project arranges a four days long symposium in February next year. I will probably present something regarding the early colonial congregations in the Cochuah region and how they relate to earlier Maya settlements, the “rotted towns“.
I will give at least one public lecture on the 2012-phenomenon. For long I have decided not to do so because my dealing with the phenomenon is supposed to result in a study about how to deal with “public archaeology” through the blog medium (i.e. my own blog). After some consideration I have decided that the lecture probably will not affect the study in a negative way. In any case, the one and a half hour long lecture will be held in Swedish, at 18:00 (6 PM), October 31, 2012. The location will be Stora Hörsalen, Humanisten, University of Gothenburg (I have not reserved it yet). Here is the title and “abstract” in Swedish:
2012 – årtalet som inte har mycket med mayakalendern att göra
De forna maya förutspådde varken jordens undergång, en medvetandehöjning, eller ankomsten av utomjordingar. Ändå tror många människor att när ”mayakalendern” når sitt påstådda slut den 21 december 2012 så kommer något av detta att hända. Vad är sant och falskt när det gäller de forna maya och deras kalendrar?
Translated into English it goes something like this:
2012 – the year that does not have much to do with the Maya calendar
The ancient Maya did not predict the end of the world, a transformation of consciousness, or the arrival of aliens. Still, many people believe that when the “Mayan calendar” reaches its supposed end on December 21, 2012, some of these things will happen. What is true and false when it comes to the ancient Maya and their calendars?
During the early part of my vacation I read Ian Bogost’s (2012) book Alien Phenomenology, or what it’s Like to be a Thing. Bogost is one of the four best known object-oriented philosophers (the others being Harman, Bryant and Morton). Like the others he is fighting a battle against correlationism and he does it primarily by using examples from his expertise in video games. If we wish to understand objects themselves we must set humans as subjects to the side since objects do not just exist for our amusement. Objects exist in their own right.
Bogost proposes a tiny ontology because being is simple. Instead of Bryant’s two-dimensional plane of a flat ontology, Bogost suggests that we can have a spaceless ontology, which is one-dimensional. He states that “if any one being exists no less than any other, then instead of scattering such beings all across the two-dimensional surface of flat ontology, we might also collapse them into the infinite density of a dot. Instead of the plane of flat ontology, I suggest the point of tiny ontology” (P 21, emphasis original). It contains everything entirely even though it spread and expand like a mess. A cave contains everything it needs, it is not lacking anything for its own existence.
Instead of the term object, Bogost uses unit which is anything “made up of a set of other units (again human or nonhuman), irrespective of scale” (P 19). Unit is an ambivalent term since it is indifferent to the being it names. It is isolated, unitary and specific. Unit operation is used to describe how units behave and interact. In systems theory an operation is what transform an input. Caves machinate within themselves and mesh with other objects, such as ceramic vessels, bats, guano, rain, archaeologists, spelunkers, spiders, etc. Caves act and react to properties but still keep secrets. A unit is always a set of other units and any unit operation is fractal. The unit operation is a process by which a unit attempts to make sense of another unit. It is a prehensive capability in Whitehead’s sense. So how does a cave make sense of water dripping inside it? It is not enough to simply observe this from our own human perspective. The traditional characterization of an experience through objective and external mechanisms leads us farther from understanding how and entity may experience. Understanding how something operates is not the same as understanding how that thing understands that operation.
Bogost’s alien phenomenology does not specifically refer to extraterrestrials but to the unknown found everywhere. The prehensive capabilities of a cave are as alien to us as E.T. and a Space Jockey. However, the “only way to perform alien phenomenology is by analogy” (P 64). Hence, the risk of falling into anthropocentrism is unavoidable but the same is true for any unit. If we remove the subject-object correlate and only correlates object with other objects we still need to resort to centricity that is not anthropocentric. Caves are speleocentric and water is hydrocentric. When we study these objects we can never reach the way them themselves prehend other objects. We have to allude to a thing, i.e. to talk about it without talking about it. This is simply done through metaphors. We “never understand the alien experience, we only ever reach for it metaphorically” (P 66). Harman suggests that relation takes place as a metaphor. Bogost proposes that metaphor itself should be used to understand alien objects’ perceptions of one another. However, metaphorism is anthropomorphic (slightly better than being anthropocentric). Bogost uses Husserl’s concept of intuition to account for instincts that are not related to sense perception. Categorical intuitions can function in an “ideative” manner. Bogost applies this to speculative metaphorisms of object relations that are disconnected from the way we perceive them. Hopefully we have then reached a better understanding of how objects prehend other objects, not how humans perceive the same relation.
I wonder if we ever can reach an archaeology where the artifacts, ruins, etc. actually becomes the centers of research themselves? As long as we follow the practice of fitting artifacts into arborescent models, like “Maya culture”, “Maya cosmology”, etc. we are trapped in a narrow anthropocentric narrative. My project on water as an archaeological material/object aims to change this.
I make use of Levi Bryant’s onticology and his writings about apocalypticism and media ecology in an upcoming article and book on my blogging about the 2012-phenomenon. Apparently he has been busy dealing with a New Ager as well. I feel that his response to this individual can be applied to most 2012ers. However, they accuse me for misrepresenting them as well but that should not come as a surprise if we follow Bryant’s own work on communication.
Since I am affiliated with the project on the early modern town my family and I strolled through the old Dutch quarters of Semarang on the northern coast of Central Java. Semarang came into Dutch control in 1678. The octagonal Blenduk church dominates this area. It was built in 1753 and is the oldest church in central Java.
There are a plenty of other colonial buildings in this part of the town. I am not sure how old they are.