Archive | Book Reviews

Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage

booktdch.jpgMIT Press has just released Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse, edited by Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine. Here is the publishing blurb:
“In Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage, experts offer a critical and theoretical appraisal of the uses of digital media by cultural heritage institutions. Previous discussions of cultural heritage and digital technology have left the subject largely unmapped in terms of critical theory; the essays in this volume offer this long-missing perspective on the challenges of using digital media in the research, preservation, management, interpretation, and representation of cultural heritage. The contributors–scholars and practitioners from a range of relevant disciplines–ground theory in practice, considering how digital technology might be used to transform institutional cultures, methods, and relationships with audiences.…

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Living with Things

Danny Miller, UCL
LwTcover web.jpg
A new book has just been published by Nicky Gregson, Professor of Human Geography at Sheffield University, well known through her previous publications such as Second Hand Worlds. The latest book is called Living with Things ( I admit to a bias, since I am the editor of the series this appears in, and indeed I would use the opportunity to encourage people to send manuscripts. We are certainly interested in material culture books with an anthropological inflection. Living with Things reports a fascinating ethnography of a former coal-mining village in North-East England, seen largely through the internal relationships between the long term lives of objects in the home and the long term occupancy of the homes.…

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Tinkering Through Material Culture

Patrick Laviolette (UCL / Massey University)
Review of “Thinking Through Material Culture: An Interdisciplinary Perspective” by Carl Knappett (2005); Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.
[Editorial note: and see Martin Holbraad’s response to Danny Miller’s review on this site of the book Thinking Through Things as a cross-reference to this review and for an interesting discussion of some of the limits of the category of material culture…]

“Quantum Cloud” (30 m. x 16 m. x 10 m.) is an elliptical sculpture by the artist Antony Gormley. A version of this piece, standing on four watertight cast iron pylons in the Thames adjacent to London’s Millennium Dome in Greenwich, illustrates the jacket cover of the book reviewed here.

After agreeing that it does indeed have a great cover, it was indicative of how clichés come to exist when a colleague picked up Knappett’s book from my desk before I’d even had a chance to start it and began to read.…

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Museum Highlights: The Writings of Andrea Fraser

Alex Starace, MA student, Program in Museum Studies, NYU
Museum Highlights: a Gallery Talk. Performed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1989

Andrea Fraser’s new book Museum Highlights is quite depressing – and I mean that as a compliment. Fraser, an artist and writer, bases her work on the idea that contemporary artistic practice should expose and change the institutional hierarchies and self-interests of the art world. Many of her critiques are scathing. In her essay, “It’s Art When I Say It’s Art, or…” Fraser even admits that “my stomach turns every time I reread this essay,” (43) because she can come to no other conclusion than that the deep-down aspirations of artists are always oriented towards gaining as much authority, recognition, and legitimacy as possible.…

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Thinking Through Things

Daniel Miller, UCL
On Thursday 7th December a book launch was held for a new volume Thinking Through Things. Edited by A Henare, M Holbraad and S Wastell and published by Routledge.
The book is clearly of interest to anyone in material culture studies. The primary theme is concerned with transcending any dualism between things and concepts, for which purpose there is considerable engagement with epistemological and ontological issues. The intention is not to develop a new theory, but rather to affirm an analytical methodology, that anthropologists could utilise to gain insights in their various studies. The inspiration is quite clearly the work of Marilyn Strathern, and the degree to which this clearly represents a cadre of younger scholars working enthusiastically to related themes is testimony to her inspiration at Cambridge.…

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A Brief History of Globalization

Review of: “A Brief History of Globalization” by, Alex MacGillivray (2006); New York, Carroll & Graff
Richard Wilk teaches at the University of Indiana
This is not an academic book, written instead by an activist with a decidedly anti-globalization position. Nevertheless, because it takes a historical perspective, and sees globalization as a complex phenomenon with contradictory tendencies, the book is an excellent introduction to the topic, suitable for classroom use. MacGillivray is an especially good guide to the long term trends in the velocity of travel, exchange, migration and transportation, avoiding that heated tone of sudden crisis which characterizes so much recent writing on globalization.
Anthropologists will especially appreciate the balanced tones with which he approaches the topic of cultural globalization.…

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“Brain of the Earth’s Body”

Review: “Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity,” by Donald Preziosi (2003); University of Minnesota Press
Sharon Macdonald teaches at the University of Manchester
Donald Preziosi’s “Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity” (2003, University of Minnesota Press) is the published version of his 2001 Slade Lectures (an annual series of Art History Lectures at Oxford University). Somebody I know who went to these lectures told me that he found them fascinating but almost impossible to understand. I can see why. But at least in the book form you can read sentences several times (and untangle all the multiple partial parentheses of words). It’s an effort worth making.
Preziosi makes an argument against a representational account of art that is similar to Gell’s in Art and Agency.…

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Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts.

García Canclini, Néstor (2001) Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. University of Minnesota Press
In Consumers and Citizens, García Canclini suggests the necessity to consider how the changes in modes of consumption have altered the possibilities of citizenship in the Latin American context. Through several essays the author proposes a romanticized idea of citizenship and social movements in Latin America that struggle to survive by being redefined; people in mega-cities (particularly Mexico City) answer the questions on belonging, rights and interests traditionally located in the public sphere in the realm of private consumption.
This book belongs to the 1990s trend within anthropology, sociology and cultural studies on globalization, Americanization, multicultural identities and mass consumption, with a particular focus on the cultural industries.…

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Where Stuff Comes From

Review: Harvey Molotch (2003), Where stuff comes from – how toasters, toilets, cars, computers and many other things come to be as they are. London: Taylor and Francis
Elizabeth Shove and Matt Waton teach at the Department of Sociology, University of Lancaster
‘Where Stuff Comes From’ does an excellent job of opening up debate about product design and of asking new questions about the hardware with which we live our lives. What is it that gives shape and form to the ‘stuff’ that surrounds us? In dipping into the world of design, Harvey Molotch deals with questions of fun, functionality and fashion, also taking note of the structuring of supply chains and the organisation of production. In focusing on design in this way, his book sits squarely between typically generic arguments about consumers’ pursuit of novelty and more technologically oriented theories of innovation.…

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