Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications

By Erkki Huhtamo; Jussi Parikka | Go to book overview

15
Afterword
Media Archaeology and Re-presencing the Past

Vivian Sobchack

What may be called “presence” (“the unrepresented way the past is
present in the present”) is at least as important as “meaning.”

—EELCO RUNIA, “PRESENCE”

Archaeologists should unite in a defense of things, a defense of those
subaltern members of the collective that have been silenced and “othered”
by … imperialist social and humanist discourse. … This story is not
narrated …, but comes to us as silent, tangible, visible and brute
material remains
.

—BJØRNAR OLSEN, “MATERIAL CULTURE AFTER TEXT:
RE-MEMBERING THINGS”

Both of these epigraphs, the first taken from a groundbreaking theoretical essay by a Dutch philosopher of history and the second from a “manifesto” by a Norwegian archaeologist, strike me as particularly relevant to the task of making sense of “media archaeology,” however heterogeneous and literally unruly this undisciplined discipline might be. Much like the far-ranging essays in this volume, both epigraphs are dramatic articulations of a fairly recent, decidedly materialist, and generally antinarrative and antihermeneutic discourse focused on the conditions under which the absent past can be said to have “presence” in the present.1 Thus this discourse is also concerned with the conditions for— and effects of—both “immediacy” and “mediation,” even as it has not directly addressed the various entities and forms specifically designated as “media.” As I will argue, this discourse of presence (a “presence in absence”) and its particular concern with the past and the conditions under which it can be re-presenced (as well as historiographically communicated) are central to media archaeology. What, however, in the context of this discourse is meant by the term presence?

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