Hammers and Nails: A response to Lindstrøm and Olsen & Witmore

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Two contrasting arguments on the merits of symmetrical archaeology and an associated discussion of object agency appeared in a recent issue of Archaeological Dialogues (Lindstrøm 2015; Olsen and Witmore 2015). While Torill Christine Lindstrøm extends a thorough, yet hardly new, criticism of the notion of object agency and of symmetrical archaeology, Bjørnar Olsen and Christopher Witmore provide a clarification in its defence (even though their article is oddly categorized by Archaeological dialogues as a ‘provocation’). In this reaction article, I take issue with a number of arguments by Lindstrøm and by Olsen and Witmore: first of all, I challenge Lindstrøm’s representation of object agency, which I believe is in need of corrections. Second, I contend that Lindstrøm fails to identify a number of fundamental contributions within the framework of symmetrical archaeology, thus allowing her to caricature symmetrical archaeology as ‘old wine in new bags’. Third, even though Olsen and Witmore’s defence offers helpful clarifications, I believe that their contribution invites us to discuss the vocabulary of symmetrical archaeology, scrutinizing why there is an apparent tendency to misunderstand its arguments and merits. Lastly, I take issue with Lindstrøm’s dismissal of ‘different ontologies’ as a result of political correctness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchaeological Dialogues
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)115-127
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2016

ID: 151397724