Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 13, Issue 3, Fall 2009

Michael David Kirchhoff
Pages 206-220

Material Agency
A Theoretical Framework for Ascribing Agency to Material Culture

This article attempts to articulate a theoretical framework, the target of which is to systematically unearth the conditions validating the ascription of agency to material culture. A wide range of studies, located within the interdisciplinary field known as material culture studies, testify to and aim at (re)uniting the materials of material culture with the notion of agency. In this article the argument is advanced that material entities have agency only if two necessary conditions are met: an ontological condition (agency is an asymmetrical and relational category) and an epistemological condition (material entities mediate and transform human understanding). Hopefully, this way of approaching matters will help to establish a constructive framework for future debates.