Back to All Events

Paper: 'The Cartesian Cut?', Research Seminar, UWTSD

'Making, Experiencing, Becoming: More than Human Debates'

 A discussion with Luci Attala (Lecturer Anthropology Department, UWTSD, and Green Gown Champion) and Eloise Govier.

Both Luci Attala  and Eloise Govier presented papers on their latest research and shared interest in the porous boundary of the body. Luci focused on 'dust' whilst Eloise considered the vitality of household 'dirt'. Individually they explored moments when these substances enter, become, and leave the body. Eloise's performance sculpture 'The Cartesian Cut?' - a congealing, melting, and becoming form - provided a unique visual stimulus for the discussion.

During the seminar Eloise referred to the work of anthropologist Alfred Gell (1998), who argued that being an 'intentional' entity is not a pre-requisite for being an agentive entity, as agency is realised ex post facto ('from after the action'). What you intend to happen does not necessarily happen (I throw a ball to Louise, it hits the window), therefore, in terms of agency, what matters is what interrupts the 'causal' mileu (Gell 1998, 20). The smashed window is an expression of my agency. Gell used this argument in his outline of the agency of art and objects (or 'material agency' as described by Knappett and Malafouris, 2008). Professor David Cockburn (Philosophy Department, UWTSD) provided a philosophical challenge to Gell's work. A vibrant discussion ensued.