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A Matter of Difference: Karen Barad, Ontology and Archaeological Bodies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2014

Yvonne Marshall
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton, Highfield Road, Southampton, SO17 1BF, UK, Email: ymm@soton.ac.uk
Benjamin Alberti
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Framingham State University, 100 State Street, Framingham MA 01701, USA, Email: balberti@framingham.edu

Abstract

This article explores the implications of adopting Karen Barad's agential realist approach in archaeology. We argue that the location of Barad's work in quantum physics and feminism means it is uniquely placed to inform the ontological turn currently gaining favour for understanding the materiality of bodies. We outline Barad's approach using a comparative reading of Sofaer's book The Body as Material Culture and Barad's Meeting the Universe Halfway. To illustrate, we think through Barad's key concepts of ‘phenomenon’, ‘intra-action’ and ‘apparatus’ in relation to specific archaeological bodies; New Zealand Maori chevron amulets, Argentinean La Candelaria body-pots, Pacific Northwest Coast stone artefacts and Nuu-chah-nulth ceremonial objects. Barad's theory transforms the way we understand and think these object bodies. In particular, her relational ontology, which contrasts with a conventional binary separation of matter and meaning, produces difference in a new way; a difference which facilitates analyses conceptually unthinkable in conventional representationalist terms.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2014 

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