The archaeological weird:excavating the non-human

Dodd, Kerry (2020) The archaeological weird:excavating the non-human. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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The interaction between human and non-human can be visualised through archaeology, the excavation of material culture, which provides a unique insight into frameworks of ontological encounter. Indeed, it is the realisation of how the human subject perceives the non-human that is utilised by both exhibitionary institutions and adventure fiction to elicit a recognition of material ‘identity’ within a viewing subject. Both the visual framings of film and the representative reductionism of prose therefore project narratives about materiality but simultaneously imply that such an identification reflects an emergent ‘object ontology’. Encounters with ‘wonderful things’ or xeno-artefacts may thus appear extraordinary, but become tacitly ‘knowable’ through the way they are framed to the subject. This thesis focuses on the cultural production of the artefact encounter to demonstrate how notions of ‘object identity’ reflect on human perception rather than any realisation of non-human ontology. Analysing the subjective labelling involved within the differentiation of rubbish and relic, the thesis investigates how encounter is fundamental to prescriptions of material value or worth. Literary representation draws upon such a materialist paradigm to evoke a recognition of ‘objects’ and thus provides a platform where such preconceptions can be both identified and confronted. Weird Fiction’s inclination to notions of exteriority is therefore perfectly suited to depictions of contact that eludes a distillation of macro ontologies to micro representations and rather resides within the process of encounter. Yet while Speculative Realist or Object-Oriented thought utilises the Weird to re-conceptualise ontological definitions, this thesis argues that such formations return to a recognition of non-human alterity as lying beyond anthropocentric depiction, rather than confronting the biases within the framework itself. Through artefacts, ruins, zones and xenoarchaeology, this thesis analyses the very processes of encounter to consider how imaginative modes can help underscore the urgency of re-negotiating ontological contact points.

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Thesis (PhD)
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Kerry Dodd completed his PhD at Lancaster University, UK. He is currently an Associate Lecturer at the same institution as well as Co-Head Editor for Fantastika Journal. His thesis, entitled “The Archaeological Weird: Excavating the Non-human,” examined the intersection between archaeology and Weird Fiction. Focusing on the cultural production of the artefact encounter, his thesis explored how archaeological framings can offer a re-conceptualisation of object ontology through the Weird. Kerry also works more widely in the fields of: Science Fiction (particularly Cosmic Horror and Cyberpunk), the Gothic, and glitch aesthetics.
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02 Mar 2020 16:55
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 01:41