Thinking as Thinging: A Process Archaeology of Mind @ Bard Graduate Center, 3/19

Event Website (w/ RSVP)

March 19, 2019, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Bard Graduate Center, 38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall

Lambros Malafouris will present at the Seminar in Cultural History on Tuesday, March 19, at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Thinking as Thinging: A Process Archaeology of Mind.”

What is that thing we call “mind” in the archaeology of mind? Malafouris will argue that mind-stuff do not have fixed locations or set properties: they equally pertain to brains, bodies, and things. A neural activation pattern, a movement of the hand, a line produced on a piece of white paper: they are all mind-stuff. The suggestion he wants to make is that more often than not our ways of think-ing are better described as modes of thing-ing. To explain: thinking is usually understood as something we do about things in the absence of things. On the contrary thinging denotes the kind of thinking we do primarily with and through things. For the material engagement approach withness and throughness takes precedence over aboutness. What we call mind is a “process” constituted by the continuous recycling and re-organisation of mind-stuff, i.e., a cognitive becoming. Thinking, like form-making, exists in a state of perpetual movement. Minds never stop minding. Minds always become. This applies to every sentient organism but is especially true in the case of humans given the profound plasticity and immense variety of the material forms that we make. The unhelpful antinomies of mind/matter, nature/culture, and people/things now give way to a more productive focus on the ways materiality becomes entangled with our lived experience and thinking. We have a plastic mind inextricably intertwined with the plasticity of culture.


Lambros Malafouris PhD (Cambridge) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology and Keble College, University of Oxford. He was a Balzan Research Fellow in Cognitive Archaeology at the McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge (2005-2008). His primary research interests lie in the archaeology of mind and the philosophy of material culture. His research expertise is at the intersection between cognitive anthropology, archaeology, philosophy of mind, and neuroscience. Dr Malafouris’ publications include How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement (MIT Press, 2013); The Cognitive Life of Things: Recasting the Boundaries of the Mind (McDonald Institute Monographs, 2010, eds. with C. Renfrew); Material Agency: Towards a Non- Anthropocentric Approach (Springer, 2018, eds. with C. Knappett); and “The sapient mind: archaeology meets neuroscience,” a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Volume 363, 2008, eds. with C. Renfrew and C. Frith). Dr. Malafouris is directing the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant, HANDMADE (No 771997 European Union Horizon 2020).