Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, Vol 5, No 1 (2018)

Plastic and Presentism: The Time of Disposability

Gay Hawkins
Issued Date: 4 Jun 2018

Abstract


How did a material as tough and durable as plastic became classified as transient anddisposable? This is a temporal question that wrestles with the paradox of how plastic'smaterial endurance and synthetic immortality have been obliterated by economic andcultural practices driven by single use. Disposable plastic things generate a distinct temporalitycharacterized by being immediately present and ephemeral. These things seemto be most definitely in the flow of time: barely there before they are gone, but what doesthis presentism affirm? How does this material realise the present as without history ororigin, and endlessly replaceable? To pursue these issues, historical and sociotechnicalaccounts of plastic and philosophical explorations of the relations between time andmaterials are put into dialogue. In historical approaches plastic is recognized as being intime, in the sense of being caught up in the dynamics of historicity and changing contexts,but it is not recognized as being of time: as actualizing new temporal ontologies.Process philosophers provide key insights into the intersections between plasticity andtemporality and show how materials are simultaneously in and of time.

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DOI: 10.1558/jca.33291

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