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Palgrave Macmillan

Toward an Anthropology of Screens

Showing and Hiding, Exposing and Protecting

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  • © 2023


  • Focuses on screen experiences from a wide anthropological perspective usually neglected in philosophy and visual studies
  • Criticizes in detail the exclusive focus on images that presently dominates the common understanding of screens
  • Shows how wearable technologies, rather than replacing screens, temporarily use our body organs as connected screens

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About this book

This book shows that screens don’t just distribute the visible and the invisible, but have always mediated our body's relationships with the physical and anthropological-cultural environment. By combining a series of historical-genealogical reconstructions going back to prehistoric times with the analysis of present and near-future technologies, the authors show that screens have always incorporated not only the hiding/showing functions but also the protecting/exposing ones, as the Covid-19 pandemic retaught us. The intertwining of these functions allows the authors to criticize the mainstream ideas of images as inseparable from screens, of words as opposed to images, and of what they call “Transparency 2.0” ideology, which currently dominates our socio-political life. Moreover, they show how wearable technologies don’t approximate us to a presumed disappearance of screens but seem to draw a circular pathway back to using our bodies as screens. This raises new relational, ethical, and political questions, which this book helps to illuminate.


Table of contents (7 chapters)


Towards an Anthropology of Screens is, at once, an elegantly condensed 10-point double "manifesto," and an incredibly expansive challenge to disciplinary boundaries. Reading it is a transdisciplinary, trans-historical, and non-teleological "adventure" into the realms of a variety of past, present, and future screens that are always also in the process of becoming. The encompassing concept of the "arche-screen" and its foundational structures of "showing and hiding, exposing and protecting" enable travel across a breadth of space-time in Western cultures. Balancing this breadth is the authors' fine-grained attention to the rhizomatic by-ways of screens and their connections with each other and with us, these entailing etymological, ethnological, and phenomenological description and analyses of our screen concepts and experiences. In its sum, this extraordinary book argues—and demonstrates—that screens were never either merely "surfaces" for display or "interfaces" mediating our autonomous interactions with them and others, but, from the first, we have always lived and incorporated them as "relational thresholds" between our embodied being and our social worlds. (Vivian Sobchack, Cinema and Media Theorist, Cultural Critic, Professor Emerita UCLA Dept. of Film, Television and Digital Media)

Mauro Carbone and Graziano Lingua take the global Covid-19 pandemic event as a starting point to theorize the role of screens in our daily life. They explain how, despite the dramatically increased prominence of digitally networked screens in our recent pandemic social interactions, all screen operate according to trans-historical principles that can be identified across multiple time periods. The theoretical acumen and intellectual scope of their unfolding of these principles is impressive. Tracing out a double logic of screenic remediation as both transparently showing/exposing and materially hiding/protecting, the authors persuasively undertake “an anthropology of screens,” which ranges from our body as the proto-screen, to the screens of cinema and television, to the “Transparency 2.0” of our contemporary “screen new deal.” Carbone and Lingua move comfortably through pre-classical, classical, and Judeo-Christian thought and are equally at home discussing Quattrocento, Enlightenment, modern, and postmodern arts, technology, and culture. Toward an Anthropology of Screens offers an important and provocative framework for scholars interested in understanding how human interactions with our screens have functioned throughout history, and how screen objects will continue this adventure into the future. (Richard A. Grusin, New Media Theorist, Cultural Critic, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)

At once situated in the immediacy of our post-Covid world and rooted in the prehistory of human practices of image making, Mauro Carbone and Graziano Lingua’s Towards an Anthropology of Screens argues that screens are not just surfaces but are, and always have been, “apparatuses of action” that simultaneously both show and hide, expose and protect. Carbone and Lingua provide a new perspective on the long history of image-text relations that repudiates their alleged opposition in favor of a more complex inter-imbrication the fruition of which can be found in contemporary multimedia and digital culture. With their crucial claim that the body is a proto-screen, the very source of the concept and operation of the arche-screen, the authors open a new avenue for rethinking the variety of ways that screens nourish and have always nourished human life and culture from the very advent of our species. This book will both complement and complicate recent challenges to ideas concerning the immateriality of images and digitality; by situating the materiality of the image in its diverse anthropological functioning rather than its artifactuality, it shifts the very terrain of media theory in consequential ways. (Mark B.N. Hansen, Philosopher and Media Theorist James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Literature – Duke University)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, Lyon, France

    Mauro Carbone

  • University of Turin, Turin, Italy

    Graziano Lingua

About the authors

Mauro Carbone is Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics at the Lyon-3 University, France. A leading scholar in Merleau-Ponty, Screen and Visual Studies, he directs the International Research Group “Living Among and Through Screens.” His most recent book on this topic is Philosophy-Screens: From Cinema to Digital Revolution (2019).

Graziano Lingua is Full Professor of Moral Philosophy, Head of the Philosophy and Educational Sciences Department at the University of Turin, Italy, and Co-Director of the Département Humanisme numérique at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris, France. His research is focused on the philosophy of images and public ethics.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Toward an Anthropology of Screens

  • Book Subtitle: Showing and Hiding, Exposing and Protecting

  • Authors: Mauro Carbone, Graziano Lingua

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Literature, Cultural and Media Studies, Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-30815-4Published: 05 October 2023

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-30818-5Due: 05 November 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-30816-1Published: 04 October 2023

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XIII, 194

  • Number of Illustrations: 3 b/w illustrations, 3 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Screen Studies, Social Anthropology, Continental Philosophy, Digital Humanities

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