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Lecture | Dean's Lecture

In the gathering shadows of material things

  • Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)
Thursday 3 May 2018
Dean's Lectures
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Main hall

Interacting objects

What does it mean to join things? Only because things are joined is the material world at all coherent, and therefore habitable. Underlying the manifold ways of thinking about the join is a fundamental contrast between ‘up-ness’, or articulation, and ‘with-ness’, or correspondence. Joining up yields an addition, albeit fragmentary and contingent, otherwise known as the assemblage, defined by the exteriority of relations between its parts.

Behind the additions of the assemblage, however, lie a series of practical and productive operations by which things are drawn into a nexus of relations with one another. With-ness is not additive, like the assemblage, but complicate, as a gathering of threads or pathways. In the gathering, these threads go along together and answer to one another. That is, they correspond. And whereas the elements of the assemblage are outside one another, in the gathering things both join and split apart, entangle and differentiate, from the inside. Thus the order of the gathering is not explicate but complicate.

In all matter, the explicate structure of the assemblage is accompanied by the complicate structure of the gathering, like a thing and its shadow. The one lends the material world its substance; the other its coherence. Only by taking the two together – a duality encompassed in the notion of agencement – can we comprehend a world which is full of connections but in which everything takes time to build and nothing lasts.   

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