Archaeology and Assemblage

Call for papers:
TAG 2014, Manchester, 15-17 December.
Session: Archaeology and Assemblage
Yannis Hamilakis and Andrew Meirion Jones (University of Southampton)
The concept of assemblage has long been part of the archaeological lexicon, implying groups of associated or related artefacts. Recent uses of the term have relied on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, who related it to the play of contingency or structure, organization and change, and emphasized the internal heterogeneity of the assemblage and its dynamic character. Developing this idea, the cultural theorist Jane Bennett (2010) describes assemblages as ad hoc groupings of diverse elements. ‘Assemblage’ relates to processes of arrangement, organizing and fitting together, and through these processes of arrangement and re-arrangement new material configurations are brought into being. For Bennett, this process is emergent, in that it makes things happen.
A number of recent writers in archaeology have adopted this definition of assemblage using the concept to describe the relationship between the archaeologist and the archaeological ‘record’, and its changing nature (Fowler 2013; Hamilakis 2013; Lucas 2012; Jones and Alberti 2013), while others have contrasted the notion of context and assemblage (Jones and Alberti 2013), and stressed the role of sensoriality in the activation of assemblages, proposing the term, “sensorial assemblages” (Hamilakis 2013). In addition, North American archaeologists have reworked the notion of assemblage in order to understand the Native American concept of ‘bundling’ (Pauketat 2013; Zedeño 2013). How useful is Bennett and Deleuze’s notion of assemblage to archaeology? How does it relate to the notion of assemblage as typically understood by archaeologists? What are the limits of the notion of assemblage; can everything be described as a form of assemblage? Is ‘bundling’ a useful cross-cultural concept or should its use be restricted to North American context? This session is intended to continue the debates begun in the TAG 2013 session ‘Towards an archaeology of becoming’.

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