Saturday, February 18, 2006

Meeting #3 - Reading List

Agency of Objects - Part II/Aesthetics

Our next meeting will be on Friday, March 3 at 2 in the ARF atrium. Below is the updated reading list for Meeting #3. For this meeting we will focus on archaeological examples dealing with the agency of objects. We will also spend some time discussing the related topic of aesthetics. You can download most of these readings from the library. I will have copies of those articles that are not downloadable in my ARF box by Tuesday.

Agency of Objects

*Gosden, C.
2005 What Do Objects Want? Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 12(3):193-211.

*Knappett, C.
2002 Photographs, Skeuomorphs and Marionettes: Some Thoughts on Mind, Agency and Object. Journal of Material Culture 7(1):97-117.

*Martin, A.
2005 Agents in Inter-Action: Bruno Latour and Agency. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 12(4):283-311.

*Normark, J.
2004 Sakbihs and Polyagency: The Architectural Causes of Human Activities in the Cochuah Region, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Current Swedish Archaeology 12:141-168. Download from:

Robb, J.
2004 The Extended Artefact and the Monumental Economy: a Methodology for Material Agency. In Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World, edited by E. DeMarrais, C. Gosden and C. Renfrew, pp. 131-139. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge.


*Gosden, C.
2001 Making Sense: Archaeology and Aesthetics. World Archaeology 33(2):163-167.

Howes, D.
2006 Scent, Sound and Synaesthesia: Intersensoriality and Material Culture Theory. In Handbook of Material Culture, edited by C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Kuchler, M. Rowlands and P. Spyer, pp. 161-172. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks.

Jones, A.
2002 A Biography of Colour: Colour, Material Histories and Personhood in the Early Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland. In Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research, edited by A. Jones and G. MacGregor, pp. 159-174. Berg, Oxford.

Pollard, J.
2001 The Aesthetics of Depositional Practice. World Archaeology 33(2):315-333. (Download from Library)

Saunders, N.
2001 A Dark Light: Reflections on Obsidian in Mesoamerica. World Archaeology 33(2):220-236. (Download from Library)

*Saunders, N.
2003 “Catching the Light”: Technologies of Power and Enchantment in Pre-
Columbian Goldworking. In Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, edited by J. Quilter and J. Hoopes, pp. 15-47. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. (Download from

Young, D.
2006 The Colours of Things. In Handbook of Material Culture, edited by C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Kuchler, M. Rowlands and P. Spyer, pp. 173-185. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks.

*Focus on these readings


Blogger John said...

Here is a re-post of Shanti's comment:

And here's a spare:

on polyagency.

A useful concept? Yea? Nay?

8:33 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

I am afraid I have to vote NAY on the polyagency. I think we came to the conclusion that there isn't any utility in using a new term for what is essentially Gell's "secondary agency" - since we aren't entirely happy with Gell's distinction (retains the people/objects divide despite itself).

I need to get my shit together and write up better comments - along with the rest of my plans for the semester...

8:35 AM  
Blogger SMH said...

I'm with y'all.

Also, Normark seemed to want it both ways-- in one sense the sacbeob are morphologically defined, and in another they are functionally defined; in some cases the sacbeob have the same construction/different uses, in other cases, different constructions/same use. So to want to categorize sacbeob as a single 'polyagent' cross-space and cross-time seems counterproductive.

He does have an interesting point about taking the agent and working forward ('what potential effects did it have') instead of backward ('where did it come from and why'). I feel, though, we generally approach these 'forward' questions anyway, in perhaps more productive ways that have to do with interrelated agentive effects (transformation, incorporation, and maintenance of different forms over time and/or the relational condition of these effects).

In terms of time, I thought the application of Bachelard's 'isolated instant' model was iffy at best. Kind of a 'filmstrip' view of time. Useful heuristically, sure, but leaves aside issues of the arbitrariness of boundaries which Latour addresses (1999). Sort of like saying that all the colors of the visible spectrum are self-explanatory and naturally divided into discrete categories. Also, even if time is composed of discontinuous instants, how do we know that we've 'got it right'-- that our perception of what constitutes a particular 'instant' is accurate or even precise? I have never read Bachelard, though. Maybe he is a very nice man.

7:38 AM  

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