Institute of Archaeology



Capacious Archaeologies | Tue Dec 17 09:30:00 | Room 784

The subject of affect has gained academic traction in the last decade or so (Massumi 2002, Stewart 2007, Thrift 2008, Manning 2016), with several collections now being devoted to the topic (Gregg and Seigworth 2010; Clough 2007) and an on-line journal (http://capaciousjournal.com/past-issues/vol-1-no-1-2017/). The study of affect is multitudinous, however archaeological responses to the topic have tended to narrowly conceive affect in terms of the emotions or senses (e.g. Brady and Bradley 2016, Hamilakis 2013, Harris and Sørenson 2010). While these discussions are important, we argue that the study of affect has much more to offer archaeology.
The session aims to explore the potentials of discussing affect in the study of the past. Affect has been discussed in relation to encounters with archaeological art (Back Danielsson et. al. 2012, Jones and Cochrane 2018), and has also been discussed as a component of relational assemblages (Jervis 2019). Each of these approaches open up the possibility for a much wider analysis of affect. But can we explore the topic of affect beyond the study of archaeological art; how are other things affective? If we consider affects to be components of complex assemblages of people, things and other entities then affect also offers a powerful tool for exploring power in a post-human or multi-species scenario. To consider the capacities of assemblages of things is to simultaneously consider the power of things to affect.
In the exploratory spirit of affect studies, we are interested not only in applying affect theory to the study of archaeology, but also in exploring the capacity of archaeology to expand the dimensions and capabilities of affect theory.

Back Danielsson, I.-M., Fahlander, F. and Sjöstrand, Y. 2012 Encountering Imagery. Materialities, perceptions, relations. Stockholm: Stockholm university.
Brady, L. and Bradley, J.J. 2016 Who do you want to kill? Affectual and relational understandings at a sorcery rock art site in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22 (4), 884-901.
Hamilakis, Y. 2013 Archaeology and the senses: human experience, memory and affect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harris, O. and Sørenson, T. F. 2010 Rethinking emotion and material culture, Archaeological Dialogues 17 (2), 145-63.
Jervis, B. 2019 Assemblage Thought and Archaeology. London: Routledge.
Jones, A.M. and Cochrane, A. 2018 The Archaeology of Art. Materials, Practices, Affects. London: Routledge.
Manning, E. 2016 The minor gesture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Massumi, B. 2002 Parables of the Virtual. Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Stewart, K. 2007 Ordinary Affects. Durham, NV: Duke University Press.
Thrift, N. 2008 Non-representational theory. Space, politics, affect. London: Routledge.

Session timetable
9:30 | Rachel Crellin, University of Leicester

Affect and power – what difference does a word make?

In this paper I work from the premise that affect is a much better term for post-humanist archaeologists to use than agency because it allows us to move beyond the humanist limitations of the term ‘agency’ and stops our work being misinterpreted as examples of ‘object agency’. The term affect opens up a new space where we need not be anthropocentric and can effectively consider how both humans and non-humans are produced through and by their affective relationships. From this position I move forward to think about the relationship between power and affect. A repeated critique of post-humanist studies has been that they fail to engage with power and, as a result, social justice issues. In this paper I argue that this need not be the case at all, by exploring the radical feminist aspects of post-humanism we are called upon to directly address issues of power and social justice. Drawing on Foucault, Deleuze (2006: 60) tells us that power has no form but rather “…shows up as an affect…” and is both the ability to affect and to be affected. What then is the relationship between affect and power?

Deluze, G. 2006 Foucault. London: Bloomsbury

9:45 | Elizabeth Arwill Nordbladh, Göteborg University, Sweden

Affective understandings, affective practices. A short discussion.

In this paper a few analytical concepts are discussed that might be useful when exploring affectivity in archaeology. They include for instance affective styles and affective communities (Arwill-Nordbladh 2018:496), concepts developed from Rosenwein (e.g. 2006) in order to further stress the intense relations between body (human and non-human), materiality and matters’ affective possibilities. As such, the paper also concurs with Chantal Mouffe’s insistence that affect, as a force, is often more present than we are aware of, and recognize, and further that the power of affect cannot be overestimated (Mouffe 2016: 22, 47, 83-4). The connection between corporal abilities, for example visual capacities, is equally touched upon, highlighting how affectual expressions are both contextually and bodily situated. Finally, attention is paid to one example from the Scandinavian/British late Iron Age, where bodily practices may be related to affectivity.

Arwill-Nordbladh, E. 2018. Källby hallar. Om runstenars affektiva interventioner i en allvarlig tid. In: Sjöberg, M. (ed.). Allvarligt talat. Berättelser om livet. Göteborg: Makadam.
Mouffe, C. 2016. Agonistik. Texter om att tänka världen politiskt. Stockholm: Atlas/Fronesis. (Translation by Henrik Gundenäs of Mouffe’s book from 2013: Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically. London: Verso.)
Rosenwein, B. H. 2006. Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.

10:00 | Julie Lund, Oslo University, Norway

Kerbing Relations. Affecting By Using Pasts

The use of the past in the past has traditionally been approached with a very narrow understanding of power relations. In this paper the ambition is to challenge that by exploring the effects and affects of constructing and referring to older grave monuments in a number of cemeteries with long continuity with a particular focus on kerbstones. The divergences in grave monuments and the relationships between the mounds across temporal borders are explored with a focus on the manners in which these attributes and material qualities were efficacious in creating relations. The use of kerbstones may have evoked emotions related to social memory, belonging and ownership, but more importantly they had the effect of crossing time as they created physical links between various temporalities. These more than referential relations activelyused temporality and references to time during the Viking Age. Through this meeting between affect theory and the ostensibly insignificant kerbstones of Østfold, Norway perhaps even affect theory is affected.

10:15 | Oliver Harris, University of Leicester

Affect and post-anthropocentric architecture

In this paper I explore the ways in which affect allows us to rethink architecture outside of the normal anthropocentric discourse of archaeology. Drawing on a reading of affect taken from Baruch Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, I will argue that affect is a critical element of all relations in the world, not something restricted to human beings, animals or organic matter. Instead, affect reveals the capacities of all bodies to change, to press into one another, and to alter how other bodies can act in turn. The exploration of affect thus becomes the exploration of what it is that bodies, past and present, human and non-human, can do. To explore these issues I will look at the timber halls of Neolithic Britain, and argue we can approach their forms of architecture quite differently from this post-anthropocentric emphasis on affect. Furthermore, this in turn allows archaeology to make a wider contribution to thinking about the relationships between people and architecture, once the former are no longer defined within the traditional domains of anthropocentrism.

10:30 | Andrew Meirion Jones, University of Southampton; Louisa Minkin, University of the Arts, London, UK

‘Concepts have teeth’: capacities and transfers in the digital modelling of Blackfoot material culture

Remarking on the way that colonial encounters produced complex entangled networks between indigenous communities and Euro-Americans, the Mohawk anthropologist Audra Simpson (2007, 69) writes that ‘concepts have teeth and teeth that bite through time’.She is writing about the differential power of one account over another in establishing the terms of being seen or being present.This paper explores the way in which these kinds of concepts and encounters produce certain kinds of affective capacities.

This paper introduces an archaeology-art project concerned with digitally modelling Blackfoot material culture in UK museum collections, using photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). Blackfoot sacred artefacts, such as medicine bundles, are involved in a series of complex exchanges and transfers (Lokensgard 2010). In this paper we argue that the transfer and exchange of medicine bundles offers a paradigm for thinking about material encounters. What capacities are revealed by the various exchanges involved in the project?

The project is based on a series of exchanges: between academics and members of an indigenous community; between Canadian and UK institutions; between Universities and museums; and between academic disciplines and their associated practices and techniques.How do the series of encounters involved in these exchanges make a difference to the outcomes and trajectories of the project; how do capacities emerge and extend through the networks established and created by the project?

Lokensgard, K.H. 2010 Blackfoot religion and the consequences of cultural commoditization. London: Routledge.
Simpson, A. 2007 On Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’and Colonial Citizenship, Junctures 9, 67-80.

10:45 | Session organisers


11:00 | BREAK
11:30 | Ing-Marie Back Danielsson, Uppsala University, Sweden

Affect as the last cry of objects and phenomena

This paper discusses objects and phenomena that change their affectual qualities, sometimes dramatically, before they finally disappear or go out of production or fashion. For instance, objects and phenomena may be significantly enlarged before their disappearance. Such enlargement does not necessarily mean that the feature is monumental, but rather that the phenomenon has changed its relation to its previous self or selves (cf. Bogost 2012), and of course its relations to other human and non-human entities. A few brooches, for example, used in the Scandinavian Late Iron Age (c. AD 500-1000), demonstrate this point. Other affectual changes may include a change of the matter or material itself, of which the objects or phenomena usually were made. Discussing objects and phenomena from both prehistory and modern times, I will shed some light on how a recognition of affect in our studies of material culture can be a useful tool to discuss changing power relations on a variety of levels, how affect is connected to memory work (e.g. Hamilakis 2013) and also how affect, as a force that pass between and adhere to bodies (Seigworth and Gregg 2010), can invite and stimulate playfulness (Hustak and Meyers 2012: 77-8; cf. Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 12) to the extent that the object or phenomenon has no alternative but to disappear.

Bogost, I. 2012. Alien Phenomenology, or what it’s Like to be a Thing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, G and Guattari, F. (1988). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hamilakis, Y. 2013 Archaeology and the senses: human experience, memory and affect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hustak, C. and N. Myers. (2012). ‘Involutionary Momentum: Affective Ecologies and the Sciences of Plant/Insect Encounters’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 23(3), 74–118.
Seigworth, G. and Gregg, M. (2010). ‘An inventory of shimmers’ in M. Gregg and G. J. Seigworth (eds.) The affect theory reader (pp. 1-25). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

11:45 | Yvonne O'Dell, University of Leicester

Affect worlds and Immanence: A Spinozan Archaeology

Affect is gaining traction in archaeological discourse, but few pay attention to its philosophical roots. In this paper I wish to return to Spinoza, a seventeenth century Dutch philosopher who inspired Deleuze’s own ruminations on the concept. In Spinozan terms, affect denotes the capacity to act and to be acted upon, the alteration of a body’s puissanceas it moves through the world. In this sense, affect is present in all relations. Rather than rendering the term defunct, I argue that this ubiquity allows us to articulate why experiences of the shared material realm are empirically different. Spinozan affect encourages us to focus on the immanent nature of things; transcendent types and static forms have no place in a Spinozan archaeology. I propose that this fits well with recent feminist post-humanist works and can open up our understandings of difference in the archaeological record. To this end, I will explore affect worlds in the plantation period in the colonial Caribbean. I argue that affect allows us to communicate how different bodies are constructed through the maintenance of certain relationships of affect, and I will explore why the capacities of a machete can transform as it changes hands.

12:00 | Ben Jervis, Cardiff University

Ground Affect: Honestones and Emergent Capitalism in Medieval England

Stone is one of the most widely discussed materials by new materialists, its durability and malleability lend it to considerations of emergent form, temporality and persistence (e.g. Cohen 2015) and the concept of stratification is a key metaphor in the writing of Deleuze and Guattari (1987). Here I focus on portable stone artefacts, honestones used for sharpening metal blades, from medieval England. These are common, but understudied, finds which derive from local, regional and international sources. As such they provide a means to explore how emergent mercantile capitalism confronted local subsistence activities, as stone became entangled in what Anna Lowehaupt Tsing (2015) has termed the ‘salvage economy’. The paper will explore how the material durability of honestones conceals their relational constitution and seeks to de-territorialise these stones to explore how their distribution is more than representative of an increasing globalising economy, but are a part of its constitution. I propose that shifting focus from studies of mercantile trade to everyday encounters with ‘foreign’ objects provides an opportunity to understand the role of the material in shaping the economic assemblage of the Middle Ages.

Cohen, J.J. 2015, Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman, University of Minessota Press.
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. 1987, A Thousand Plateaus, Bloomsbury.
Lowehaupt Tsing, A. 2015, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Princetown University Press.

12:15 | Joakim Kjellberg, Uppsala University, Sweden

Moral and objects of affect in the medieval world

It is well attested through archaeological and historical thinking that the medieval material world was littered with objects imbedded with meaning. The argument that medieval objects were fundamental for creating identities, life courses and ethnicity for the person using or wearing the object or artefact has received a great deal of scholarly attention. However, to a lesser extent objects’ capability to invoke affect in others largely remain unexplored in material culture studies of the medieval period. Artefacts in museums, as well as depictions in medieval art, show that even the most mundane objects had the potential to evoke affect, especially if manipulated in certain contexts and space. The medieval carnivals, for instance, frequently invoked material culture for both humour and a sense of moral. Objects that include teachings of virtue and vice, such as the ornate bowls of hand washing, is another example. Further, from Scandinavian medieval law texts, regulating wear of superfluous and extravagant dress, it is also apparent that people could behave outside the norm and moral code. Finally, the ”affect teachings”, popular in 17th century Sweden, give some further insights to the subject. Summing up, this paper addresses questions of moral teaching and affect in the medieval object-world, and it explores what some objects do, and how they have may have both intended and unintended affects in others.

12:30 | Kristján Mímisson, University of Iceland, Iceland

The Affect of Relating. On thingly humans and humanly things

The fundamental truth about things is that in things we recognize ourselves. Things are defined by their humanness, and their partaking in humanity is what separates them from the brute materials of nature. The difference between a manuport stone and a pebble or a stone hammer and a boulder is their relations to humans, and thus their affect, as all relations are affective. Yet, from what perspective can things said to be human? Some would claim that it is based on the human cognition and intellect that is reflected in their conception, design, production and use, whereas other would emphasize their valuing and meaning, i.e. their symbolism. With the rise of New Materialism, the focus shifted towards the ontology of things and how they relate through their material qualities, endowing them not only with affect but agency as well.

In this paper I aim at addressing things and their different guises in order to understand the various ways in which things relate and how thingly relations affect. The focus of my talk centres upon different kinds of material culture archives, be that the archaeological record, museum exhibits or probate inventories, asking question like: In what way are things from the various archives the same or how are they different? And, does that sameness or difference affect their relationality?

12:45 | Andrew Meirion Jones, University of Southampton; Ing-Marie Back Danielsson, Uppsala University, Sweden; Ben Jervis, Cardiff University


13:00 | END