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Radical Archaeology Theory Symposium 2016: Radical Ontologies for the Contemporary Past

Binghamton University
3-6 March 2016
Abstract deadline: January 15th 2015

Recently, anthropologists have been trying to challenge Western practices of knowledge production and understandings of existence. The theoretical oppositions at the core of Western thinking gave way to relational and new materialist endeavors.
 The so-called “ontological turn” has opened doors to investigate the ways social scientists perform, produce, and disseminate their research. For instance, many archaeologists saw this process as an opportunity to go back to things and rethink archaeology as an ontological practice in itself, in which the reassembling of objects defines forms of being and becoming. However, very little has been discussed about its political implications and what seems to be a fethishization of the word “ontology”. These recent debates encourage scholars working with the materialities of the recent past to think about their responsibilities in the quest for alternative forms of being.

The Radical Archaeology Theory Symposium (R.A.T.S.) 2016 is intended as a forum to discuss the politics and ethics of the “ontological turn” and its impacts on the archaeologies of the contemporary past. We invite participants to discuss archaeology as a practice of becoming, and how it can trigger larger social engagements with the politics and ethics of the contemporary past. Issues to be addressed may include, among others:

– The relevance of ontological-oriented analyses of the contemporary past – Politics of ontology as practical ethics

– Activist and community-based archaeologies.
Papers presenting case studies, and from intersecting fields are particularly welcomed.

Submit your abstract up to 250 words, along with your name, contact, institutional

affiliation and three keywords, by January 15th 2015. The selection of papers will be announced during the first week of February 2016.

Keynote speakers:

Maria Theresia Starzmann

McGill University, Canada

Ruth Van Dyke

Binghamton University, New York

Severin Fowles

Columbia University, New York

Þóra Pétursdóttir

University of Tromsø, Norway

Organization committee:

Maura Bainbridge

Rui Gomes Coelho

radicalarchaeology@gmail.com

 

In the Molecular Red Reader, Mckenzie Wark collects several newly translated essays by Bogdanov and Platonov, a few essays by Wark himself (including one titled “Proletkult for Sex Workers” with reflections on Paul B. Preciado‘s Testo Junkie), and an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson. The reader can be downloaded for free here.

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In Molecular Red, McKenzie Wark creates philosophical tools for the Anthropocene, our new planetary epoch, in which human and natural forces are so entwined that the future of one determines that of the other.

Wark explores the implications of Anthropocene through the story of two empires, the Soviet and then the American. The fall of the former prefigures that of the latter. From the ruins of these mighty histories, Wark salvages ideas to help us picture what kind of worlds collective labor might yet build. From the Russian revolution, Wark unearths the work of Alexander Bogdanov—Lenin’s rival—as well as the great Proletkult writer and engineer Andrey Platonov.

The Soviet experiment emerges from the past as an allegory for the new organizational challenges of our time. From deep within the Californian military-entertainment complex, Wark retrieves Donna Haraway’s cyborg critique and science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s Martian utopia as powerful resources for rethinking and remaking the world that climate change has wrought. Molecular Red proposes an alternative realism, where hope is found in what remains and endures.

 

Working with a framework that incorporates mathematical analysis, social science, and observation of natural phenomena, the ‘Human And Nature Dynamical’ (HANDY) model projects “business as usual” could lead to the end of industrialized civilization. Accepted for publication in the Elsevier Journal of Ecological Economics, the study finds ample historical evidence that overpopulation, failing agriculture, limited access to water, energy consumption, and the unequal distribution of wealth could all combine to spell the end for society as we know it…

The researchers believe that humanity is on a collision course with disaster, and they outline two likely scenarios. In the first, everything will appear to be fine for a short period of time, but eventually a small number of Elites will begin to deplete everyone’s resources. Even under the most “conservative” consumption rates, the Elites will take too much and cause a famine amongst the Masses and later themselves. In this model, society is sabotaged by human rather than natural forces. In an alternate future, the faster consumption of resources wipes out the Masses in a short period while the Elites still survive, but soon after disappear. In both situations, the Masses get hit harder and faster while the upper echelons fail to adjust their behavior until it is too late.”

http://inhabitat.com/nasa-funded-study-predicts-impending-collapse-of-industrial-civilization/

We work from soiled grounds, in an atmosphere thick with the byproducts of fossil-fuel-intensive political and economic systems. Our anthropologies to come must work to dis- lodge the future these systems so forcefully anteriorize.”

Kim Fortun, “From Latour to Late Industrialism”

Abstract: I situate Latour’s latest project—An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (AIME)—in the context of late industrialism and query both its conceptual underpinnings and the design of its digital platform. I argue that Latour’s semiotics (and associated conceptions of both networks and ontologies) are functionalist in a way that mimics industrial logic, discounting both the production of hierarchical differentiation within a given system, and the system’s externalizations. The approach thus underestimates the toxicity of its vitalism.”

Bio: Kim Fortun is a cultural anthropologist and Professor of Science & Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research and teaching focus on environmental risk and disaster, and on experimental ethnographic methods and research design. Fortun’s book Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, disaster, new world orders was awarded the 2003 Sharon Stephens Prize by the American Ethnological Society. From 2005 to 2010, Fortun coedited the Journal of Cultural Anthropology. Currently, Fortun is working on a book titled Late industrialism: Making environmental sense, on The Asthma Files, a collaborative project to un- derstand how air pollution and environmental public health are dealt with in dif- ferent contexts, and on design of the Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography (PECE), an open source/access digital platform for anthropological and historical research.