Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-vh8gq Total loading time: 0.286 Render date: 2022-10-04T17:11:40.046Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Ethics, Not Objects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 May 2021

Ruth M. Van Dyke*
Affiliation:
Anthropology Binghamton University 4400 Vestal Parkway Binghamton, NY13902-4600USA Email: rvandyke@binghamton.edu

Abstract

Posthumanist or new materialist tools, positions and conversations contain some useful ideas for archaeologists to think with, but others that I find deeply problematic. In this opinion piece, I organize my thoughts around three posthumanist ‘turns’ to objects and materials, relations and assemblages, and non-human animacy. I appreciate how some strands of Posthumanism can help us think more creatively and thoughtfully about relations between humans and non-humans, but I argue against non-anthropocentrism, flat ontology and symmetrical archaeology. Animacy and perspectivism can help remedy colonialist and late-stage capitalist destructive forces, but archaeologists should take care not simply to appropriate, patronize, or re-colonize non-western thinkers. Ultimately, I argue, we should not need continental philosophy to remind us to care about one other, all living creatures and the well-being of our shared planet. What is needed today are ethics, not convoluted turns toward objects.

Type
Special Section: Debating Posthumanism in Archaeology
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Alberti, B., 2014. Designing body-pots in the Early Formative La Candelaria Culture, northwest Argentina, in Making and Growing: Anthropological studies of organisms and artefacts, eds Hallam, E. & Ingold, T.. Aldershot: Ashgate, 107–25.Google Scholar
Alberti, B., 2016. Archaeologies of ontology. Annual Review of Anthropology 45, 163–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alberti, B., Fowles, S., Holbraad, M., Marshall, Y. & Witmore, C., 2011. ‘Worlds otherwise’: archaeology, anthropology, and ontological difference. Current Anthropology 52(6), 896912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alt, S.M. & Pauketat, T.R. (eds), 2019. New Materialisms, Ancient Urbanisms. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barrett, J., 2014: The material constitution of humanness. Archaeological Dialogues 21, 6574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bauer, A., 2018. Questioning a posthumanist political ecology: ontologies, environmental materialities, and the political in Iron Age South India, in ‘Uneven Terrain: Archaeologies of Political Ecology’, eds Millhauser, J.K., Morehart, C.T. & Juarez, S.. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 29 (Special Issue), 157–74.Google Scholar
Bauer, A. & Bhan, M., 2018. Climate without Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benjamin, W., 1999. The Arcades Project (trans. Eiland, H. & McLaughlin, K.). Cambridge (MA): Belknap Press.Google Scholar
Bennett, J., 2010. Vibrant Matter: A political ecology of things. Durham (NC): Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Bernbeck, R., 2018. An emerging archaeology of the Nazi era. Annual Review of Anthropology 47, 361–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Callon, M. & Law, J., 1995. Agency and the hybrid collectif. South Atlantic Quarterly 94(2), 481507.Google Scholar
Crellin, R.J., 2020. Change and Archaeology. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dawdy, S.L., 2016. Patina: A profane archaeology. Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
De Leon, J., 2017. The Land of Open Graves: Living and dying on the migrant trail. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press.Google Scholar
Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F., 1980. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (trans. Massumi, B.). London/New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
Fernández-Götz, M., Maschek, D. & Roymans, N.. 2020. The dark side of the empire: Roman expansionism between object agency and predatory regime. Antiquity 94, 1630–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fowles, S., 2016. The perfect subject (postcolonial object studies). Journal of Material Culture 21(1), 927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
González-Ruibal, A., 2008. Time to destroy: an archaeology of supermoderity. Current Anthropology 49(2), 247–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
González-Ruibal, A., 2019. An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Harman, G., 2011. The Quadruple Object. Alresford: Zero Books.Google Scholar
Harris, O.J.T., 2017. Assemblages and scale in archaeology. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 27(1), 127–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hodder, I., 2012. Entangled. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hodder, I., 2014. The asymmetries of symmetrical archaeology. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1(2), 228–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hodder, I., 2016. Studies in Human-Thing Entanglement. Online. http://www.ian-hodder.com/books/studies-human-thing-entanglementGoogle Scholar
Holbraad, M. & Pederson, M.A., 2017. The Ontological Turn: An anthropological exposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ingold, T., 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling, and skill. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Khatchadourian, L., 2019. The Vibrant Afterlife of Socialist Modernity. Paper presented in ‘At the Pace of Things? Archaeology in the Anthropocene’, organized by Þóra Pétursdóttir & Geneviève Godin, Theoretical Archaeology Group North America Meeting, Syracuse, NY, May 4 2019.Google Scholar
Khatchadourian, L., 2020. False dilemmas? Or what coronavirus can teach us about material theory, responsibility, and ‘hard power.’ Antiquity 94, 1649–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knappett, C. & Malafouris, L. (eds), 2008. Material Agency: Towards a non-anthropocentric approach. New York (NY): Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Latour, B., 1993. We Have Never Been Modern (trans. Porter, C.). Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Latour, B., 1999. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the Social: An introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Olivier, L., 2011. The Dark Abyss of Time: Archaeology and memory (trans. Greenspan, A.). Walnut Creek (CA): AltaMira.Google Scholar
Olsen, B., 2007. Keeping things at arm's length: a geneaology of asymmetry. World Archaeology 39, 579–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olsen, B., 2010. In Defense of Things: Archaeology and the ontology of objects. Lanham (MD): AltaMira.Google Scholar
Olsen, B. & Pétursdóttir, Þ. (eds), 2014. Ruin Memories: Materiality, aesthetics and the archaeology of the recent past. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olsen, B. & Witmore, C., 2015. Archaeology, symmetry, and the ontology of things: a response to critics. Archaeological Dialogues 22(2), 187–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olsen, B., Shanks, M., Webmoor, T. & Witmore, C., 2012. Archaeology: The discipline of things. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press.Google Scholar
Pollock, S., 2016. The subject of suffering. American Anthropologist 118(4), 726–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pollock, S., Bernbeck, R., Jauß, C., Greger, J., von Rüden, C. & Schreiber, S., 2014. Entangled discussions: Talking with Ian Hodder about his book Entangled. Forum Kritische Archäologie 3, 151–61.Google Scholar
Seowtewa, O., Quam, C. & Haskie, P., 2021. A:shiwi (Zuni) perspectives, in The Greater Chaco Landscape: Ancestors, scholarship, and advocacy, eds Van Dyke, R.M. & Heitman, C.C.. Boulder (CO): University Press of Colorado.Google Scholar
Sørensen, T.F., 2013. We have never been Latourian: archaeological ethics and the human condition. Norwegian Archaeological Review 46(1), 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Todd, Z., 2016. An Indigenous feminist's take on the ontological turn: ‘ontology’ is just another word for colonialism. Journal of Historical Sociology 29(1), 422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Dyke, R.M., 2015. La intencionalidad importa: una crítica a la agencia de los objetos en la arqueología [Intentionality matters: a critique of object agency in archaeology] (trans. Acuto, F.), in Personas, Cosas, Relaciones: Reflexiones Arqueológicas sobre las Materialidades Pasadas y Presentes [Persons, things, relations: archaeological reflections on materials past and present], eds Acuto, F. & Franco Salvi, V.. Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala, 151–74.Google Scholar
Viveiros de Castro, E., 2012. Cosmological perspectivism in Amazonia and elsewhere. HAU: Masterclass Series 1, 45168.Google Scholar
Webmoor, T., 2007. What about ‘one more turn after the social’ in archaeological reasoning? Taking things seriously. World Archaeology 39, 546–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Webmoor, T., 2012. An archaeological metaphysics of care: on heritage ecologies, epistemography and the isotopy of the past(s), in Modern Materials: The proceedings of CHAT Oxford, 2009, eds Fortenberry, B. & McAtackney, L.. Oxford: Archaeopress, 1323.Google Scholar
Webmoor, T. & Witmore, C., 2008. Things are us! A commentary on human/things relations under the banner of a ‘social’ archaeology. Norwegian Archaeological Review 41(1), 5370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Witmore, C., 2007. Symmetrical archaeology: excerpts of a manifesto. World Archaeology 39, 546–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Witmore, C., 2014. Archaeology and the New Materialisms. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1(2), 203–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zedeño, M.N., 2008. Bundled worlds: the roles and interactions of complex objects on the North American Plains. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15, 362–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
1
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Ethics, Not Objects
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Ethics, Not Objects
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Ethics, Not Objects
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *