As part of the Unearthing the Present programme at the HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a live exchange between Irka Hajdas and Jamie Allen, an Exchange on Deep Time and Deep Response-ability
Determining the age of materials, a seemingly objective, ministerial or archival act, is one of multiple significations, evoking cosmic hopes, political resonances and market value. Radionuclide and radiocarbon signals deliver to human understanding more than just chronometric measure — they are mediations that attach human history and activities to material processes. As such, they also attribute and distribute a kind of conceptual proximity, and so moral responsibility for the often contemptible or ignorant acts that facilitate the ‘progress’ of ‘civilized’ histories. Unknowable events, species of planetary and cosmological alterity, need, nonetheless, to be ‘dated’. The laboratory practice of geochronology is a practice of both scientific fact and fiction in climate research, environmental studies, archaeology, cultural heritage, and forensics. How do we imagine the intimacy it creates with abstracted, distanced events? And how do the geochronologist and geohistorians composing and interpreting them understand their response-ability for material signals from the past?