Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Papers for 'Manifestos for Materials' session (TAG 2010)

The abstracts for the accepted papers for my session Manifestos for Materials have now been published. The session will comprise eleven papers by scholars working across archaeology, anthropology, architectural studies, cultural geography, and cultural studies. Paper titles and abstracts are provided below.
The session will take place at the University of Bristol on Saturday 18th December (all day). For more details for TAG 2010, and to register for the conference, see

Session Abstract
Manifestos are re-emerging, perhaps: from Donna Haraway's Companion Species Manifesto (2003), to Danny Miller and Sophie Woodward's 'Manifesto for a study of Denim' (2007), to Bruno Latour's 'Compositionist Manifesto' (2010). These manifestos are diverse...[continue reading the session abstract on my previous post]

Dan Hicks (University of Oxford)

Does anything really matter?
Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley)
Manifestos assert positions that are intended to stir debate and action. Archaeology, as a practice of tracing human entanglements with nonhumans through their material disturbances, needs to confront the slippery nature of things, matter, reality, and the singularities we construct when we speak about traces as if they were bounded and static.
Let us begin as a manifesto should, by a series of assertions:
  • given that archaeology is a set of practices
  • given that these practices are directed at discerning material traces as evidence of human lives
  • given that the traces archaeologists discern are mediated through nonhumans of various kinds
  • given that archaeologists discern traces through contrasts, or what I will call disturbances
  • it is proposed that archaeological practices construe traces as bounded and static singularities when they would be better thought of as unfolding relations.

Can the thing speak?
Martin Holbraad (University College, London)
Arguing against humanist and posthumanist strategies for 'emancipating' the thing in recent years (by analogy to earlier attempts to emancipate the colonial subject), this paper proposes a manifesto for allowing things to speak in their own voice - what I shall call their 'conceptual affordances'.
A cogent take on the past decade's effervescence in the study of 'materiality' in the social sciences draws an analogy with post-colonial studies, and particularly the politically responsive concern with subaltern subjectivities (Fowles 2008, 2010). If much scholarship in the 1980s and '90s was directed towards theorising the 'agency' of colonial and post-colonial subjects, then the 2000s have been partly about making a similar move with respect to 'things'. In this paper I explore these 'emancipatory' moves in the recent literature on 'the rise of the thing', and argue that at most they manage to emancipate things by associating them with humans. Revisiting earlier arguments of my own in this vein (Henare et al 2007, Holbraad 2009), the latter half of the paper seeks to develop an analytical perspective that would allow things to be emancipated 'as such' - a manifesto for allowing things to speak to us in their own voice. Such an analytic, I argue, places the focus on things' conceptual affordances: the difference that things' material characteristics make to attempts to 'think' them. Among other examples, I make the case with reference to archaeological debates about skeuomorphism.

"We want to demolish museums..." Archaeology and the Futurist Manifesto
Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto is probably the first thorough going statement of the doctrine of Modernism, and offers a straightforward challenge to archaeology and heritage. In a sense we have got the World that the futurists desired, and perhaps they can help us understand it.
Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto (1909) is probably the first thorough going statement of the doctrine of Modernism, and offers a straightforward challenge to archaeology and heritage. The Futurists wanted to dispense with the past, to "Heap up the fire to the shelves of the libraries! Divert the canals to flood the cellars of the museums!". In embracing the excitement and romance of new technology, even its devastating capacity for war, Futurists announced a faith in change and renewal which was later to inspire high Modernists such as Lewis Mumford and Robert Musil.
Whilst Marinetti and his friends were later condemned by their adherence to Mussolini's Fascism, and their hatred of museums might seem unpromising, I want to argue in this paper that the Futurist Manifesto has a great deal to say to us. Particularly those who are concerned with the contemporary past. We live in a World where fear of technology has been largely replaced by casual acceptance, and where continual change fuelled by a globalised economy is the norm. In a sense we have got the World that the futurists desired, and perhaps they can help us understand it.

Air apparent: a manifesto on spatial indeterminacy
Amy Kulper (University of Michigan)
If we embrace the manifesto’s perennial futurological bent and pair it with an emerging tendency in material culture to be thing-centric, how would a manifesto articulate the coming into being of something immaterial, like air?
Preserved in the etymology of the term 'manifesto' is a legal connotation related to the act of entering something into evidence. In his 1978 text Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan architect, Rem Koolhaas, opines, "The fatal weakness of manifestos is their inherent lack of evidence." Koolhaas is alluding to the projective or anticipatory structure of the manifesto - the promise of things to come - and with the idea of the retroactive manifesto, theorizing what is already there (in this case Manhattan) becomes the new mandate. But if we embrace the manifesto's perennial futurological bent and pair it with an emerging tendency in material culture to be thing-centric, how would a manifesto articulate the coming into being of something immaterial, like air?
The discipline of architecture is currently in a frenzied quest for tools, methods and techniques to ensure the generation of unique formal projects. But rather than a tool, technique or method, can the same results be garnered from an immaterial material - air - and a textual format that continuously anticipates the emergence of things - the manifesto? If air is 'impression without presence,' then as a material in the architect's palette can it transcend known outcomes producing architectures of indeterminacy? This manifesto will disprove the old maxim that you can't get something for (or from) nothing.

From verb to matter: transformations in architectural rhetoric
Axel Sowa (RWTH-Aachen University) & Murielle Hladik (University of Paris 8)
In this paper we will describe and analyse the techniques of persuasion in the realm of architecture and evaluate the possibility of manifestos based on matter and material under the conditions of contemporary design practices.
More than any other discipline, architecture has been framed and driven by manifestos. Especially throughout the 20th century, architects choose the manifesto as a common and appropriate genre to prepare and legitimize their actions. Manifestos had been used as tools for persuasion, as means to enhance acceptance and consent. Deeply rooted in the professional ethic of individuals and avant-garde groups affirming their personal attitude and style, the validity of the architectural manifesto is strongly related to the authorship of those who imagine and create the built environment. While, recently, manifestos have become rare, a new type of legitimation occurred in the architectural discourse. Furthermore, the creation of artefacts is facing new ethical standards of production form which new imperatives are derived: the economy of resources, the traceability of raw materials or the possibility to recycle used components brings matter into the centre of public attention. This renewed interest reveals a paradigm shift. In the current debate, notions of "concept" and "invention" are replaced by the more anonymous notions such as "life-cycle", "energy balance" and "sustainability" which are all pointing to the importance of materials and components. The paper will investigate the possibilities of manifestos for materials under the contemporary condition of architectural design and production.

Curating Haiti: reportage and creative archaeology
Christine Finn (University of Bradford)
This paper will contextualise the process of gathering and disseminating evidence of material culture from Haiti in the weeks after the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
The paper will show how the the author interpreted the Haitian earthquake over several months after visiting Port-au-Prince in the weeks just after the disaster. It will show how this international news was at the same time an intimate portrait of domestic life. And how a variety of processes transformed an immediate personal response into radio broadcast, then into site specific art installation. And how it continues to be adapted and proliferated as media - from discussion as archaeological and anthropological enquiry, to NGO and other charity dialogues, BBC World Service and Radio 4 scripting and broadcast, to photographic selection and editing, exhibition curation and written artist statements one for the site specific domestic location, another in a designated art space. It will draw upon a presentation which originated in Bristol, at CHAT 2006, where the author presented 'Leaving Home - the visual version' as a response to domestic change and loss. The three year project, Leave Home Stay, which emerged from this, became Leave Home Stay in Haiti in July, 2010, and was further adapted and re-curated for the Cube Cineplex gallery, Bristol, in October, 2010. For more background see

A materially affective manifesto
Oliver Harris (Newcastle University), Leila Dawney (University of Exeter) & Tim Flohr Sørensen (University of Cambridge)
This paper proposes an affective manifesto acknowledging the role of affect and emotion in creating a blurred space and boundary between human and non human.
Recently the humanities and social sciences have seen both 'material' and 'affective' turns competing for headway in an already crowded theoretical landscape. In this manifesto we take a different tack calling for a plural, eclectic and almost promiscuous use of these approaches in order to create space for an understanding of how affects create blurred and fuzzy boundaries between human and non-human. The notion of the 'affective field' (proposed and utilised in Harris and Sørensen 2010) creates just such a space. Here though we go further. By taking an interdisciplinary approach we refute claims that we must chose between things as concrete only in their relations with humans, or as having prefigured properties. Instead taking an affective approach to materials forces us to consider how things change through their intertwining histories not just because of how people think or understand them, but because of how people and things come to feel through each other. These histories mean that materials are always both here and now, and somewhere else, evading the moment and evoking their past and futures. A manifesto that calls for approaches that transcend the boundaries between affect and things has the potential to make a significant contribution to our engagements with the geographies and temporalities of the world in both the present and the past, as well our understandings of presence and absence.

Towards a manifesto for entanglement: possession, enchantment and fetishism in the age of disposability
Alison Hulme (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
This paper attempts to scope the potential for practical change in our relationships with objects, as well as map a more politicized Material Culture studies. Taking the work of Henri Lefebvre as its inspiration, it posits entanglement as an alternative to both fetishism and asceticism.
Far from being an out-dated form, applicable only in the era of grand narratives, the manifesto (especially one concerned with things) has renewed relevance in current recession-hit times. It presents an opportunity to scope practical change, as well as map a more politicized material culture studies.
The existing political angle within Material Culture tends to be that of David Harvey's call to allow the thing to uncover exploitative human relations. Thus Commodity Chain Analysis has provided some classic thing-following studies. Unfortunately, this concern has often lead to little else than the rhetoric of ethical consumption, which is all too easily hi-jacked by neo-liberal agendas in which the West buys the 'rest' out of poverty.
This paper will set out a vision for the study of material things that consciously attempts to politicize. Jane Bennett's concept of enchantment and more recent applications of Marx's fetish will be explored, alongside Henri Lefebvre's engagement with both the Surrealist and the Communist Manifestos and his thoughts on possession. Through a critique of these thinkers the beginnings of a Manifesto for Entanglement will be mapped out.
The vision is one that recognizes the false romance of 'making do', whilst acknowledging the ever-presence of new, pernicious forms of consumerism. It posits entanglement, as the lived experience of growing with things, the slow un-winding of self with object, the creeping up/rubbing off/entering in of things. As Lefebvre asserted, Entanglement is beyond ownership.

The dark matter of landscapes: manifesto for an archaeology of flow
Matthew Edgeworth (University of Leicester)
This manifesto presents eight reasons for bringing the flowing water of rivers and streams - the dark matter of landscapes, neglected in cultural analyses - into the main focus of archaeological study.
Matter can be in any one of three main states: solid, liquid or gas. In the archaeological study of landscapes, solid matter takes priority. Land itself is a solid by definition. So too are the soils, stratigraphies, sites, earthworks, features, fields, hedgerows, buildings which are constituent parts of landscapes. Pick up almost any book on landscape archaeology and you will find solid materials highlighted, with flowing liquid and gaseous materials cast into shadow.
Rivers and streams are the dark matter of landscape archaeology. Running through the heart of landscapes, shape-shifting as they go, liquids are rarely subjected to the kind of cultural analysis applied to solid materials. Study of rivers and their flow is left to hydrologists, sedimentologists, geomorphologists and other natural scientists. Flowing water is regarded as part of the natural background against which past cultural activity shows up, next to which sites are located, onto which cultural meaning is applied or into which cultural items are placed, rather than having any cultural dimension in its own right. Yet human activity, in the form of modification of rivers, is inextricably bound up with the so-called 'natural' water cycle. As dynamic entanglements of natural and cultural forces, rivers have potential to re-shape (our understanding of) landscape.
This manifesto presents eight reasons for bringing the dark matter of landscapes into the main focus of archaeological study.

100 Million years of modernity: a manifesto for fossil-bound commodity life
Mark Jackson (University of Bristol)
Invoking the need for a radical ontology of energy, the paper argues that our modernity is tens of millions of years old. Addressing modern consumption and urban materiality requires deconstructing thought/matter distinctions implicit in contemporary critical politics. Energy is the material vector for accessing a critical ontology of the present.
The concept of bio-power has long recognized the historical and necessary relations between life, and the discursive productions of subjectivities, polities and bodies. Recent theoretical work on the ontological conditions of matter and life requires, however, that we extend fields of bio-political concern to apparatuses whose borders between bodies, polities, and life are delineated less in terms of bounded conditions of consciousness or human agency, and more in terms of processes of materialization. Emergent domains of bio-politics thus need to articulate radical boundary conditions in ways that disrupt, or at least question, the previous categories that make the organic-inorganic/biotic-abiotic possible. Drawing on recent work in theoretical archaeology, material geographies, and political theory, this paper will question how the traditional discursive limits of commodity politics are truncated by material assumptions of matter and life, in particular assumptions about fossil energy. Using an urban case study on the energetics of carbon life, it will address how the limits and possibilities for a commodity bio-politics become thinkable through a radical ontology of oxidized fossil life.

Biodiversities: wildlife without recourse to Nature
Jamie Lorimer (Kings College London)
This paper offers a manifesto for lively difference. It summons forth a multiplicity of biodiversities that need not recourse to Nature. It presents an interdisciplinary approach to wildlife that is open to the virtual. The potential, import and politics of this manifesto are critically examined.
The paper offers a manifesto for lively difference. It aims to summon forth a multiplicity of biodiversities that need not recourse to modern understandings of Nature and its associated ontology, epistemology and politics. The paper links recent social science invocations of a vital materialism with parallel developments in conservation biology focusing on their shared interests in the diversity and dynamics of life and means to ensure their future flourishing. In the face of adversity wildlife management has tended to focus on the past and the preservation of pure, extant forms. In this paper I outline an alternative interdisciplinary approach to wildlife that is open to difference and the future virtual, in a Deleuzian sense. The paper presents the key components of this approach before reflecting on some of the frictions it engenders with powerful and prevalent forms of nonhuman biopolitics. The potential, import and politics of this manifesto are illustrated with reference to recent work on wilding in Europe and Asian elephant conservation in Sri Lanka.

Discussant: J.D. Dewsbury (Geography, University of Bristol)

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