An Archaeology of Temperature : Numerical Materials in the Capitalized Landscape book cover
1st Edition

An Archaeology of Temperature
Numerical Materials in the Capitalized Landscape

ISBN 9781032025735
Published November 30, 2021 by Routledge
170 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This work investigates the material culture of public temperatures in New York City. Numbers like temperature, while ubiquitous and indispensable to capitalized social relations, are often hidden away within urban infrastructures evading attention. This Archaeology of Temperature brings such numbers to light, interrogating how we construct them and how they construct us.

Building on discussions in contemporary archaeology this book challenges the border between material and discursive culture, advocating for a novel conception of capitalism’s artifacts. The artifacts examined within (temperatures) are instantaneous electric pulses, algorithmic outputs, and momentary fluctuations in mercury. The artifacts of the capitalized never sit still, operating at subatomic and solar scales. Temperatures, as numerical materials precariously straddling the colonially constructed nature-culture divide, exemplify the abstraction necessary to pursue the perpetually accelerating asymmetrical growth of wealth—a pursuit that engenders multiple environmental and economic calamities.

An Archaeology of Temperature innovatively reimagines theory and method within contemporary archaeology. Equally, in plummeting the depths of temperature, this book offers indispensable contributions to science studies, urban geography, semiotics, the philosophy of materiality, the history of thermodynamics, heterodox economics, performative scholarship, and queer ecocriticism.

Table of Contents

List of Figures; List of Tables; Chapter 1: The Shape of Things to Come; Chapter 2: The Archaeology of the Immediate; Chapter 3: The History of Heat; Chapter 4: The Materiality of Temperature; Chapter 5: The Future of Numbers; References; Index.

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Scott W. Schwartz is an adjunct assistant professor at City College of New York and Visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. Their work examines the material culture of numbers and how quantification facilitates capitalized social relations.


"An Archaeology of Temperature creatively examines the material dimensions of seemingly abstract numbers. Schwartz illuminates the myriad ways quantitative representations are artifacts with a material presence that reaches into nearly every dimension of our everyday lives. The focus on temperature ambitiously pushes beyond temperature as a conceptual notion alone and instead provides a thought-provoking and novel archaeological analysis of the materiality masked by numerical discourses." Paul R. Mullins, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

"A highly original and thought-provoking book that offers significant insights into the material culture of late capitalism and makes an important contribution to posthuman and new materialist theory." James Symonds, Professor of Historical Archaeology, University of Amsterdam.

"Never has the materiality of numbers been explored in such a thought-provoking way. This book takes contemporary archaeology in a new direction by examining temperature displays as a manifestation of capitalism in urban landscapes. After reading it, it is impossible not to notice how the measurement of temperature influences material culture in the contemporary world at every turn. An Archaeology of Temperature weaves together cultural experiences of temperature from the simple delights of icecream to the anxiety of global warming in a way that is theoretically sophisticated yet highly readable." Alice Gorman, Associate Professor, Flinders University, Adelaide