Haptic Encounters with Archaeological Knowing: Bodily Practices in Excavation

Kevin Pijpers

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research external, graduation external

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Modern accounts of the doings of scientists habitually obscure practices of bodily knowing. This thesis therefore speculatively prolongs a critique of the disembodiment of scientists, adapted from a philosophical tradition within Science and Technology Studies. Part one takes as point of entry the inheritance of modern science to the powerful philosophical imperatives of detachment and lucidity, emphasising a body deprived of its curious, inventive, and adventurous dimension. The sensing, moving, and relational body is reclaimed in a turn to ontology, not only as situated within its world(s), but also as continuously in passage through diverging experiential, and affectual states. Conceptually extending the body invokes haptics as an indigenous theory of touch, drawing on the moved, and moving body. Through haptics, the body’s renderings of objectivity are rethought as indeterminate and hallucinatory prehensions. Required for haptic knowing is then an ethos of yielding to material alterity, animating a kind of objective (un)knowing. Part two analyses archaeological theory for its ethico-political conditions of knowing. Rethinking touch in archaeological excavations, the suggestion is made that archaeological knowing is alchemical, favouring affectual and material relations over objects. Following and observing haptic encounters between participants in excavations at the Burrough Hill Iron Age Fort, and the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project, experiential affects are found to be crucial for the contingent material continuity of archaeological knowing. These affects are shown to groove the excavation and bodies of archaeologists, in their imaginings of a knowing, responsive to events in their environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Leicester
  • Puig de la Bellacasa, Maria, Supervisor, External person
  • Cromby, John, Supervisor, External person
Award date5 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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