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PAPER Theoretical Archaeology Group 2016, University of Southampton. "Bodies that Co-Create: The Residues and Intimacies of Vital Materials"


Title: "Bodies that Co-Create: The Residues and Intimacies of Vital Materials" 

Photo of Suze Adams' performed artist residency 'At One Remove' at the 'Cartesian Cut?' exhibition, for Fringe Arts Bath 2016. Photo taken by E. Govier. 

Abstract

At the Neolithic town Çatalhöyük in Turkey, carbon is often found in burial contexts. It is argued that carbon found on the ribs and vertebrae of human remains is a by-product of a lifetime of smoke inhalation (Andrews et al 2005: 277). The inhalation of carbon from the smokey hearth, settles in the lungs. But as the lungs decay, these carbon residues - intimately hosted by the lungs during life - remain embedded within the burial context. These substances are the residues and intimacies of material interactions, and I argue that their presence epitomises the futility of the “life-matter binary” (Bennett 2010: 20). To quote Jane Bennett: “[it is an] oxymoronic truism that the human is not exclusively human, that we are made up of its” (Bennett 2010: 113). The vital relationship between these materials manifest in, and on, the Neolithic body. This paper brings together data gathered from ethnographic research carried out in collaboration with performance artist Suze Adams, and the vital materials found in burial contexts at Çatalhöyük. Whilst thinking through these material interactions, I follow on from Karen Barad and reject the “Cartesian cut” (2003: 815), and offer an analysis that interrogates the vital materials that blur the "surfaces" and "horizons" of the body.