Introduction: Afterlives in Objects
In this introduction to the edited volume, Material Afterlives, the authors specify the interventions and arguments of their collection as a whole. To begin, they reflect on the recent proliferation of “afterlives” as a concept and metaphor within the social sciences and humanities, a development that they describe as the “new hauntology.” As they argue, this new hauntology favors the subjective rather than objective aspects of afterlives and consequently neglects questions of materiality. The overarching goal of Material Afterlives is to remedy this neglect. Following this, the authors examine the contributions and limitations of the concepts of ruin/ruination and waste to the investigation of material afterlives. While the concepts of ruin and waste presuppose a decrease in value in the face of time and change of function, material afterlives, by contrast, accentuate the proliferation of enhanced and unanticipated material values. They then enumerate the implications of our consideration of material afterlives for Memory Studies broadly, with particular emphasis on how material afterlives unsettle the orienting role of trauma in the discipline. Finally, they briefly outline the five specific contributions that constitute their volume.