Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Books on Materiality/Material Culture

Just wanted to let you know about 4 books on material culture/materiality that have been recently released.

Handbook of Material Culture. Christopher Tilley, Webb Keane, Susanne Kuechler-Fogden, Mike Rowlands, and Patricia Spyer, editors. 2006. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks. 576 pages. $125.00 (cloth)

This was just released here in the US last week and looks like it will become the standard text for material culture studies. It includes many articles written by archaeologists and anthropologists. The table of contents can be found at:

Here is the publisher’s description:

The study of material culture is concerned with the relationship between persons and things in the past and in the present, in urban and industrialized and in small-scale societies across the globe. The Handbook of Material Culture provides a critical survey of the theories, concepts, intellectual debates, substantive domains and traditions of study characterizing the analysis of things. It is cutting-edge: rather than simply reviewing the field as it currently exists. It also attempts to chart the future: the manner in which material culture studies may be extended and developed.

The Handbook of Material Culture is divided into five sections.
- Section I maps material culture studies as a theoretical and conceptual field.
- Section II examines the relationship between material forms, the human body and the senses.
- Section III focuses on subject-object relations.
- Section IV considers things in terms of processes and transformations in terms of production, exchange and consumption, performance and the significance of things over the long-term.
- Section V considers the contemporary politics and poetics of displaying, representing and conserving material and the manner in which this impacts on notions of heritage, tradition and identity.

The Handbook charts an interdisciplinary field of studies that makes an unique and fundamental contribution to an understanding of what it means to be human. It will be of interest to all who work in the social and historical sciences, from anthropologists and archaeologists to human geographers to scholars working in heritage, design and cultural studies.

Archaeologies of Materiality. Lynn Meskell, editor. 2005. Routledge, London. 229 pages. $34.95 (paperback)

This edited volume stems from a SAR short seminar held in 2004. All the papers (with the exception of the introduction by Meskell and the afterword by Daniel Miller) were written by graduate students from Columbia University. The table of contents can be found here:

Here is the publisher’s description:

Archaeologies of Materiality explores the philosophies that underpin materiality for specific cultural moments across time and space. Drawing on social theory, this volume provides a range of object orientations and is one of the first books to showcase substantive archaeological case studies devoted to the exploration of materiality. From prehistoric to contemporary contexts, this collection explores the idea of a material universe that is socially conceived and constructed, but that also shapes human experience in daily practice. Each case study demonstrates the saliency of materiality by linking it to concepts of landscape, technology, embodiment, ritual, and heritage. Archaeologies of Materiality will be of interest to students and scholars studying archaeology, anthropology, museum studies, and material culture studies.

Materiality. Daniel Miller, editor. 2005. Duke University Press, Durham. 294 pages. $22.95 (paperback)

I copied the introduction to this edited volume as part of the reading for our first meeting. There are some very interesting essays in here.

Here is the table of contents:

1) Materiality: An Introduction / Daniel Miller
2) Objects in the Mirror Appear Closer Than They Are / Lynn Meskell
3) A Materialist Approach to Materiality / Michael Rowlands
4) Some Properties of Art and Culture: Ontologies of the Image and Economies of Exchange / Fred Myers
5) Sticky Subjects and Sticky Objects: The Substance of African Christian Healing / Matthew Engelke
6)Does Money Matter? Abstraction and Substitution in Alternative Financial Forms / Bill Maurer
7) The Materiality of Finance Theory / Hirokazu Miyazaki
8) Signs Are Not the Garb of Meaning: On the Social Analysis of Material Things / Webb Keane 182
9) Materiality and Cognition: The Changing Face of Things / Susanne Kuchler
10) Beyond Meditation: Three New Material Registers and Their Consequences / Nigel Thrift
11) Things Happen: Or, From Which Moment Does That Object Come? / Christopher Pinney

Here is the publisher’s description:

Throughout history and across social and cultural contexts, most systems of belief—whether religious or secular—have ascribed wisdom to those who see reality as that which transcends the merely material. Yet, as the studies collected here show, the immaterial is not easily separated from the material. Humans are defined, to an extraordinary degree, by their expressions of immaterial ideals through material forms. The essays in Materiality explore varied manifestations of materiality from ancient times to the present. In assessing the fundamental role of materiality in shaping humanity, they signal the need to de-center the social within social anthropology in order to make room for the material.

Considering topics as seemingly diverse as theology, technology, finance, and art, the contributors—most of whom are anthropologists—examine the many different ways in which materiality has been understood and the consequences of these differences. Their case-studies show that the latest forms of financial trading instruments can be compared with the oldest ideals of ancient Egypt, that the promise of software can be compared with an age-old desire for an unmediated relationship to divinity. Whether focusing on the theology of Islamic banking; Australian Aboriginal art; derivatives trading in Japan; or textiles which respond directly to their environment, each essay adds depth and nuance to the project that Materiality advances: a profound acknowledgment and rethinking of one of the most basic properties of being human.

Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture. Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden and Ruth Phillips, editors. 2006. Berg Publishers, Oxford. 288 pages. $30.95 (paperback)

I haven’t seen this one yet, nor can I find the table of contents. Below is the publisher’s description of the book.

Anthropologists of the senses have long argued that cultures differ in their sensory registers. This groundbreaking volume applies this idea to material culture and the social practices that endow objects with meanings in both colonial and postcolonial relationships. It challenges the privileged position of the sense of vision in the analysis of material culture. Contributors argue that vision can only be understood in relation to the other senses. In this they present another challenge to the assumed western five-sense model, and show how our understanding of material culture in both historical and contemporary contexts might be reconfigured if we consider the role of smell, taste, feel and sound, as well as sight, in making meanings about objects.


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