3. Toward a Social Life of Things on Late Bronze Age Cyprus
Kevin D. Fisher [+]
University of British Columbia
Interactions, not just between people, but among people and things, have always played a key role in the development and transformation of social structures and material culture. But how can we move beyond acknowledging this to understanding how such interactions played out ‘on the ground’? In what follows, I pick up a few threads woven by Bernard Knapp that address the materiality, meaning and use of things in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. I take as a point of departure his recent critique of approaches to the agency of the material world (Knapp 2018). Following Knapp and others, I argue that agency of things resides in their material properties and the affordances they present to human actors. I examine this material agency through a discussion of the materiality of Late Cypriot monumental built environments, focusing on the material properties and social meanings of stone, plaster, wood, and earth. These material and social aspects were highlighted during the performance of social occasions, such as ceremonial feasting, through which people and things were brought into focused interplay. Hall’s (1966) proxemics provides a means of examining the sensory dimensions of these interactions. Such an approach begins to get at how people and things were ‘entangled’ during social occasions, potentially allowing a more nuanced understanding of human-material interactions and their implications for social dynamics during a transformative period of the Cypriot past.