We Have Never Been Latourian: Archaeological Ethics and the Posthuman Condition
Norwegian Archaeological Review
Sørensen, Tim Flohr
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Abstract: This article is motivated by the recent proposal of a ‘symmetrical’ approach in archaeology. Symmetrical archaeology takes its starting point in Bruno Latour’s contention that we have – paradoxically – always been able to practice a symmetry between humans and non-humans, and that we have, simultaneously, also always been able to distinguish humans from nonhumans.
It has been argued by its proponents that symmetrical archaeology has ethical ramifications, yet this dimension remains only vaguely described in the current literature. This article seeks to explore what it might mean to extend ethics from humans to non-humans, and it contends that such a relationship is already being practised. Archaeological practice and heritage management are salient examples of how the ability to distinguish and conflate humans and non-humans frequently occurs along the lines of a number of undeclared and un-critiqued political and ethical logics. In effect, some things and some people are embraced by an empathetic embroidery, while others are disenfranchised.
The article contends that a symmetrical principle in archaeology and heritage poses central ethical challenges to the ways in which the archaeological Other is defined and identified.
Keywords: symmetrical archaeology; humans; non-humans; ethics; body; heritage