Session 10 – The politics of humanism and posthumanism: making common ground

Timetable: Saturday morning 0930-1300 in the Joan Gero Zoom Room

Format: Panel Debate

Organisers: Andrew Gardner, Ollie Harris


The most significant theoretical trend in the 21st century so far is, arguably, the impact of posthumanist thought on archaeology. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the tenets of particular approaches under this broad heading, or indeed its overall direction, the debate around fundamental ontological issues that have been provoked by this movement is of profound significance for the identity of our discipline in the future. Such consequential matters require extended work to develop, and that work is best conducted collaboratively. In this spirit, this workshop aims to build upon a discussion commenced at TAG@UCL, and foster a community of practitioners exploring different angles and arguments across the range of views on humanisms and posthumanims, objects, agencies, entanglements, assemblages, and ontologies.

The structure of the session will be framed around four questions, with an introducer and respondent for each, then open discussion. We invite suggestions of questions to complement our initial offering below, and volunteers to lead on any of the issues. This is not a formal paper session but will contribute to an ongoing, informal project to build an ontological working group at successive TAG conferences, and hopefully beyond. 

0930 – Session 1

Question 1. What are the key differences within ‘posthumanist’ thought in archaeology?  – led by Rachel Crellin

Question 2. Is ‘the human’ a necessary foundation for an emancipatory, progressive politics? – led by Manuel Fernández-Götz)

1100 – Break

1130 – Session 2

Question 3. What is the nature of ontological difference? Is translation across such differences possible or desirable? – led by Eva Mol

Question 4. Is the Covid-19 pandemic best understood through humanism or posthumanism, both in terms of its historical explanation and its ethical consequences? – led by Christina Fredengren

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