of networks and fishnets: the archaeology of Latour


In We Have Never Been Modern Latour outlines the false dichotomy under which us ‘moderns’ have been deluding ourselves: that between nature and society, object and subject. All things must fall under one of these categories, not both, that is what he means for us to be modern. He follows this by saying that the world is not full of objects and subjects, things that belong to nature and things that belong to society, but hybirds, quasi-objects, collectives. That it is the moderns who “mistook length or connection for differences in level” (120). That connections don’t simply exist along lines, but as bundles and collectives, that only vary in size and shape.

Latour’s idea of the hybrid quasi-object resonates strongly with me, for humans do not exist without objects, thus we move from one hybrid to the next to the next and so on forever in order to live our lives and interact with one another. I want to argue that archaeologists have never truly treated objects as divorced from the world, as belonging to nature. We look at a pot and some of us investigate it’s use wear, others ask about it’s construction, others where the clay came from, how many worker’s produced it, how far it traveled, trade routes involved, technologies, who traded those technologies, who used the pot, who paid for it, how it was buried and how its deposition impacted its current form. I could continue. Due to the lack of living informants, archaeologists almost automatically delve into the vast web of the collective in which an ‘object’ finds itself. My question is how do archaeologists reconstruct or understand these hybrids, when we only have a part of them?


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