That Raw and Ancient Cold: On Graham Harman’s Recasting of Archaeology

Open Philosophy 4 (1):1-19 (2021)
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Abstract

This is a comment to Graham Harman’s 2019 response to an article by Þóra Pétursdóttir and Bjørnar Olsen (2018) in which they propose that a materially grounded, archaeological perspective might complement Harman’s historical approach in Immaterialism (2016). Harman responds that his book is indeed already more archaeological than historical, stipulating that history is the study of media with a high density of information, whereas archaeology studies media with a low density of information. History, Harman holds, ends up in too much detail, while archaeology has the advantage of lending itself to the imagination. Hence, his reading of history had the aim of tempering the historical information overload, in effect making the book a work of archaeology. In this comment, I want to do three things: (1) critique the idea that archaeological and historical media are inherently different with regard to their densities of information, (2) discuss how archaeology and history approach their media, and (3) reflect on conceptualisations of “archaeology” outside the discipline itself.

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