Materiality of Power

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About the group

This research group will explore the materialities of power in later prehistory (here: Neolithic-Viking Age), grounded in contemporary social theory, and in ways that will broaden the basis for scrutiny of political process. Politics are not only the purvey of military or legal institutions, nor do they exist solely in the interaction between leaders, in the formation of polities and ultimately, in the development of the state. Politics permeate all scales of society, and it emerges in a complex interplay among human and non-human agencies, across intersectional identities and communities. A complementary and novel approach to political development in this context is to explore how power is wielded, negotiated, upheld and broken apart on multiple scales and in multiple communities and networks.

Connectivity and relationality are core approaches to understand the past. On multiple scales, we want to explore how the large-scale political processes of later prehistory plays out and is produced on the levels of households, communities, regions, landscapes, bodies, and the emergent state. Political dynamics at single scales, for example the exercise of interpersonal power in the household, or the materializations of political space in mounds, fortifications, and central places, resonate with and give structure to expressions of power at the macro-scale. Consequently, it is not enough to work either bottom-up or top-down.

Through workshops, co-authored publications, discussion groups, excursions, invited talks and creative practice, we want to explore questions such as:

  • Are soils political?
  • What kinds of bodies have been idealized in imagery?
  • How is crafting and technology a collaborative political process among diverse actors including landscapes, moulds, human hands, architecture, and metals?
  • In what ways was the prehistoric body a battleground for politics?
  • How does food relate to affects and atmospheres, and how may these be manipulated for specific gains?
  • How can we get at the politics of houses in diverse communities?
Published Jan. 20, 2020 9:27 AM - Last modified Jan. 20, 2020 9:29 AM