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Posthumanism, New Humanism and Beyond

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 May 2021

Guillermo Díaz de Liaño
School of History, Classics and Archaeology University of Edinburgh William Robertson Wing Old Medical School Teviot Place Edinburgh EH8 9AG UK Email:
Manuel Fernández-Götz
School of History, Classics and Archaeology University of Edinburgh William Robertson Wing Old Medical School Teviot Place Edinburgh EH8 9AG UK Email:


In this paper, we analyse some of the issues associated with the posthumanist rejection of Humanism. First, we discuss some of the possibilities and challenges that New Materialism and the Ontological Turn have brought into archaeology in terms of understanding past ontologies and decolonizing archaeological thought. Then, focusing on the concept of agency, we reflect on how its use by some posthumanist authors risks turning it into an empty signifier, which can have ethical implications and limit archaeology's potential for social critique. The concept of things’ effectancy is presented as a valuable alternative to previous conceptualizations of ‘object agency’. While we acknowledge the heuristic potential of many posthumanist proposals, we believe that humanist perspectives should not be rejected altogether. Instead of creating rigid divides, we argue that elements of New Humanism, as recently defined by philosophical anthropology, can hold value when facing current societal challenges.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

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