Things are back. After a century of neglect, and after decades of linguistic and textual turns, there has for a while been much buzz about a material twist in the humanities and social sciences: a (re)turn to things. The fascination with Saussure, Derrida, and discourse has diminished, matter has replaced symbols, text is substituted with “flesh”, also reported as the return of the real. This project is an explicit attempt to critically scrutinize this material turn, to explore its consequences and potentials for two traditionally thing-oriented disciplines, archaeology and heritage studies, and thereby to prepare new ground for studying things in the humanities and social sciences. While acknowledging and drawing on the profound contributions to thing theory made in philosophy, science and technology studies, sociology, geography, anthropology and other fields, this project differs in accentuating a renewed trust in the material itself. It is the project’s grounding assertion that a successful turn to things cannot be accomplished through theoretical and discursive reconfigurations alone but must also be grounded in the tactile experiences that emerge from direct engagements with things, including broken and stranded things. Building on archaeology’s long and intimate engagement with things, and anchored in field studies of modern ruin landscapes and abandoned sites in Arctic Norway and NW Russia, our research will focus on three main themes: the materiality of memory, the affective aspects of material encounters, and the ethics of things. By bringing a concern with ruins and things themselves to the forefront, this project aims to develop a new platform for debating archaeology and heritage in the 21st century.

Object Matters: Archaeology and Heritage in the 21th Century is a new four-year research project funded by the Norwegian Research Council and UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. At this site you can read more about the new project and be kept updated on forthcoming activities as well as on the research conducted. The site carries on the domain name of the previous Ruin Memories site and archived material from this successful contemporary archaeology project will still be available.

Comments 2

  1. Hello,
    i wonder if I can introduce myself. I work for the Royal Commission n Scotland. We are about to become a ruin!
    In October 2015 we will transform with Historic Scotland into a new public body, called Historic Environment Scotland.
    My research interests lie in modern ruination, from recording graffiti walls over the course of a year to looking at how we create a national archive of things that have yet to become recognised as ruins. Like the RCAHMS and Historic Scotland.
    I wonder if you are interested in these areas too?

    1. Hello Alex,

      Thank you for your comment and introduction, and please accept our apologies for the very late reply. The research fields you mention certainly overlap with the research focus of Object Matters; modern ruination, alternative reuse and modern ruin-art, and the selection and creation of national/official heritage.

      I am not familiar with the policies or management practices of RCAHMS or Historic Scotland, but I wonder what you imply when you say that their archives of things have yet to become recognized as ruins? Will they be? OM would understand ‘a ruin’ as a persistent yet dynamic/unstable phenomenon, and moreover, that one aspect of its attractive power may (sometimes at least) lie in that dynamic and unforeseen character. My question would be, is this side of things generally respected when they become listed as heritage? That is, do heritage agencies/authorities generally recognize things as ruins, or is their aim rather to prevent them from becoming ruins?
      These were just some thoughts that came to mind reading your comment.

      Best regards,

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