Wesleyan University

Jonathan Lamb: The Implacability of Things


This lecture tackles the assumption made in books such as Neil MacGregor's The History of the World in 100 Objects that things are in fact objects, either blindly subject to the commands of their human owners or willing on their own account to serve human purposes. I explore the possibilities of dissidence among things, and how they establish sets of agendas quite opposite to ours, as if aware that they are likely to outlive us (in the shape, for example, of keepsakes). Implacability then is the unmistakable sign of colliding interests evident when humans try to persuade themselves that ownership of personal property is (in the words of Blackstone) a position of absolute dominion over things. How this table gets turned is the theme of the talk.

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