The Neglected Networks of Material Agency: Artefacts, Pictures and Texts

  • Carl Knappett


I argue, following Actor-Network-Theory (ANT), that agency is a process distributed across collectives of humans and nonhumans. These collectives can be considered in terms of networks, composed of heterogeneous nodes and links. Yet despite its name, Actor-Network-Theory has paid relatively little attention to the spatial and organisational structures of these human-nonhuman networks and their effects upon network ‘behaviour’ or dynamics. I draw upon some new network concepts in an attempt to fill this gap, and demonstrate my approach using an archaeological case study, one that explores the differential role of artefact, picture and text in actor networks. One reason for choosing such a case study is that archaeological approaches to agency remain anthropocentric, despite the material basis of the discipline, and have not as yet made much systematic use of ANT. Not only can archaeology benefit from ANT in tackling agency (particularly when supplemented with network...


Actor Network Direct Representation Textual Sign Social Collective Indirect Representation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to Chris Witmore for commenting on a draft of this chapter. My thanks also go to Olga Krzyszkowska for permission to use the images in Figs. 2–3, and to Artemis Karnava and Irene Nikolakopoulou for Fig. 5.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArtUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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