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PAPER Theoretical Archaeology Group 2017, "Doing time: Ontogenesis, causality, and the life-matter predicament"


In a recent critique of the New Materialist discourse anthropologist Tim Ingold (2014) raises concerns regarding the lack of life, growth and movement in the approach. Instead, Ingold encourages researchers to explore the “variable dynamics of ontogenesis”, that is to say: the work that brings things into being (2014: 234). In this paper I draw from Karen Barad’s approach to ‘phenomena’ and Ingold’s focus on work, and present a video artwork that spotlights human-material interaction. The art work focuses on the human-artist working with a large lump of malleable matter (2 kg of pink play dough). I contend that how we envisage ontogenesis hinges on the issue of causality. Barad’s (2003, 2007, 2012) agential realist approach collapses the causal gap by presenting entities as in-phenomena (see Marshall and Albert 2014). Through examining theoretical approaches to human-material interactions such as Malfouris’ discussion of hylonoetic space (2014), Ingold’s morphogenetic approach (2013)and Barad’s (2003) intra-actions, I aim to examine time as a ‘doing’ and highlight some questions archaeologists should consider when attempting to ‘see time’