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.