Reasserting objects; destabilizing time


After last week’s discussion and feeling like things had to be the victim, subaltern, or vanishing (Keane write “transparent expression’s of meaning” in this week’s article), I very much appreciated Pinney’s article which seemed to reclaim the autonomy/authority of objects and get past some dichotomies. The very term “purification” or separating subjects and objects implies that things on their own are profane. Also, some analyses seemed to put socially acted upon things on a continuum with humans on one end and subalterns on another, setting up things to be a class of oppressed pseudo-persons, soon to be assimilated. Shaking up that progression was much appreciated.

Also, the description of objects as “compressed performances” adds more depth and action than the purely semiotic interpretations, while also retaining some sense of symbolism and communication over things (p. 269).

Does Pinney’s discussion of Kracauer’s cataracts of time fit with Gell’s discussion of distributed personhood (or “thinghood”)? (e.g. p. 264).

Also, I was intrigued by the small point in Renfrew’s article about how the landscape, once demarcated by objects like stones, is now bounded by text and documents, in the form of maps, contracts, deeds, etc. (p. 28). This was a helpful example of a semiotic relationship with objects, particularly one in which the object can literally be replaced with a symbol (of course, you could argue that this replacement with documents isn’t a perfect substitution, especially with the old adage, “Possession is nine tenths of the law.”).

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