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The multiplicity of place: towards a grammar of the multiverse

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This seminar is part of the Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute 2014 seminar series.

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This seminar, presented by Dr Riccardo Baldissone, is part of the Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute 2014 seminar series.

Presented by Dr Riccardo Baldissone

Honorary Fellow, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London

In this presentation, I will apply the notion of trajectory proposed by Latour and Lowe to an architectural object in the archaeological site of Pasargadae, Iran. In particular, I will focus on the tomb of Cyrus, which after the Islamic invasion was long known as the tomb of the mother of Solomon.

In the course of the trajectory of the tomb, two changes in identification took place, and in both cases the previous identity did not immediately disappear, at least for some of the local population. Hence, we could reasonably suppose that the tomb in the Morghab plain was at the same time a different object for different people.

I would push further the expression of this difference, and I would argue that two tombs, as it were, shared the same place. It is not difficult to see how these considerations go well beyond the re-arrangement of an archaeological site. For example, if we would apply a similar approach to a place such as the city of Jerusalem, we would be confronted by a perturbing proliferation of places. And yet, this proliferation would not be threatening if we would renounce the Sisyphean task of producing simple, sole and stable identities for places, and if we would instead construct place as an ongoing task, namely the task of producing place as a shared place.

In turn, the construction of places as narrative trajectories would imply their pluralisation according not only to their transformations in time but also to the multiplicity of human perspectives. This is why I would argue, also following William James, that we humans do not inhabit a cosmos, or a single universe, but rather a polycosmos, or a multiverse. Such an acknowledgement would not require us to define a once-for-all repartition of places, but to engage in never-ending negotiations.


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