Cultural Antropology has published Stuart McLean’s article, “BLACK GOO: Forceful Encounters with Matter in Europe’s Muddy Margins” in a special issue on water.
This article undertakes an evocative conjuration of alternative visions of materialism through consideration of intermediary states of matter. Specifically, it focuses on gelid, semiliquid, semisolid environments such as bogs, swamps, and marshes lying on the fringes of human settlement and against which the claims of reason and historical progress have often been staked. The article juxtaposes ethnographic and historical examples from Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, and Siberia with reflections on (among others) Bachofen, Bataille, and Hegel. In doing so it seeks both to explore the limits of certain canonical formulations of historicity and historical knowledge and to ask what new cultural and political imaginaries and what possible futures might become thinkable through a more sustained engagement with the recalcitrant materiality of Europe’s muddy margins.