Theses Doctoral

All Inhibitory Is Dream: An Archaeology Of Anaesthesia

Benjamin, Jeffrey L.

What kinds of sensory adjustments allowed human beings to industrialize? If we accept Lewis Mumford's proposition that the era of coal, iron and carbon fuel production was accompanied by a broad scale "starvation of the senses" (Mumford 1963 [1934], 180), then what is the material evidence of this sensory suppression or deferral? What is the material culture of feeling -- or unfeeling -- that accompanied the arrival of the Anthropocene?

One of the implications of this question is that the aesthetic and anaesthetic imperatives that escorted Americans into industrial life have simply continued in different forms, but without the belief in industrial 'progress' to give context or meaning. Social forms of industrialism endure within a void of purpose; this gives the imperative of anaesthetization renewed fuel as a buffer for the difficulties that accompany the ongoing environmental catastrophe. Historical and archaeological evidence collected during my recent investigations into the natural cement company town of Whiteport, New York, suggest that the aesthetic and anaesthetic origins of industrial society share a common source and destination in the world of dream, whereas the aesthetic impulse emerges from imagination and reverie and anaesthetic deferral is one of renunciation and self-preservation.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Boyd, Brian
Rothschild Cooper, Nan A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2022