Presencing the Im-Material

  • Victor Buchli


I would like to consider here the rather paradoxical nature of the immaterial: that in order to conceive the immaterial, one must always try to understand it in material terms. I want to suggest that this is not so much a paradox but an artifact of our particular terms of analysis and in fact an ideological effect of the productive dualisms that structure social life (Miller 2005). We need this apparent paradox in order to gird the dualisms that make our social categories possible. What exactly is the relationship between the material and immaterial? I propose to cast this question in different terms; in relation to the notion of propinquity as an alternative way of seeing this relationship, and also as a way of understanding in a different manner what Michael Rowlands has observed regarding the multiplicities of materiality and relative degrees of materiality and immateriality at play in social and historical life (Rowlands 2005). I want to argue that our understandings of the relationship of the material and the immaterial and the issue of multiple materialities might be more profitably understood when considered in terms of propinquity. I will examine this issue in relation to different understandings of the prototype, one derived from the notion of the prototype and its technologies in early Christian life, focusing on Christ as the divine prototype, and the other, a more recent technology of the prototype, namely rapid prototyping, and in particular rapid manufacturing. I want to see how examining both technologies of the prototype, their conceptualizations and implementations might help us gain a better understanding of multiple materialities and of how the relationship between prevailing notions of the material and the immaterial and its apparently paradoxical nature might be more profitably engaged.


Rapid Prototype Empirical Reality Material Register Disruptive Technology Rapid Manufacture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of AnthropologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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