Tag Archives | material culture theory

Things in Cambridge

The Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) has convened an interdisciplinary research seminar entitled “Things: Material Cultures 1500 – 1900. The brief of the research group is here:

With the dawning of modernity came the age of ‘stuff.’ Public production, collection, display and consumption of objects grew in influence, popularity, and scale. The form, function, and use of objects, ranging from scientific and musical instruments to weaponry and furnishings were influenced by distinct  and changing features of the period. Knowledge was not divided into strict disciplines. In fact, practice across what we now see as academic boundaries was essential to material creation. This seminar series uses an approach based on objects to encourage us to consider the unity of ideas of this period, to emphasise the lived human experience of technology and art, and the global dimension of material culture.

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The Power of Objects: Materiality – Forms – Ritual Action

International Conference, Toulouse: May 30th – June 1st 2013

Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail Maison de la Recherche 5 allées A. Machado 31058 TOULOUSE CEDEX 9 Téléphone 05 61 50 24 30

Ethnographers, whether their research results in producing texts or in curating museum collections, seem to share an interest in material artifacts whose symbolic and social functions might be easier to describe than to find their common denominator. Among such artifacts, some are written about as ritual, magical, or power objects, or “idols,” “relics,” and “fetishes,” and given, by the cultures that create them, specific names: agalmata and xoana in ancient Greece, churinga in Australia, boli and basi among the Mande, etc. Others might, despite the strangeness of their power, pass almost unnoticed, like so many materials consecrated by the early Christians, for example, or as certain objects and substances used both within religious contexts and in everyday life as well.…

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Materiality Matters at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference

In October I attended the 13th annual Association of Internet Researchers conference (AoIR or IR13) which was held in Salford, England at the University of Salford in the heart of the new home of the BBC, Media City UK. As a conference, AoIR has always been at the cutting edge scholarship on internet research and digital cultures. This year, the presence of Conference Chair Lori Kendall — author of Hanging Out in a Virtual Pub, one of the very first ethnographies of online communities — significantly shaped conversation by productively highlighting issues of gender and the changing relationship between various dichotomies (real/virtual, online/offline) emerging in everyday practice.

While I was not able to attend all of the sessions (there were up to seven simultaneous tracks on October 19th and 20th!!…

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Sherlock Holmes: The Father of Material Culture?

Christopher Pinney, UCL

Sherlock Holmes was many things: cocaine addict, violinist extraordinaire, expert on Ceylonese Buddhism, master consulting detective, and accomplished amateur boxer. He was also a published anthropologist of sorts having (as is revealed in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box [1889]) published two short articles on the outer morphology of the human ear in the Anthropological Journal. But was he also a pioneer in Material Culture?

The firmest evidence for this proposition comes from the first chapter of The Sign of Four (1888). Titled “The Science of Deduction” there is much here that lays the ground for Alfred Gell’s later elevation of the Peircean notion of “abduction” as a key element in his theory of a new anthropology of art (Gell was an ardent Sherlockian).  But it is here that Holmes also reveals that several of his “works” were in the process of being translated into French for publication.…

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