Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Meeting #2 - Notes and Discussion

Here are some very rough notes from our discussion which focused on characterizing the works of Gell, Ingold, and Latour. Please add to these, as they are from notes that I quickly put together (and are thus not very detailed).


•Focuses on understanding the role objects play in mediating social relationships

•He is primarily interested in understanding social relationships

•Is concerned with the effects of objects, i.e. on how objects work rather than their meaning or symbolism

•For Gell, the relationship between people and things is asymmetrical. This can be seen in his distinction between primary (humans) and secondary (non-human) agents. Objects facilitate the relationship between primary agents and patients.

•Cognitive approach: Gell makes a distinction between mind and matter, and humans and nonhumans. Intentional actions are conceptualized first in the mind and then carried out in the world through the manipulation of objects.


•Focuses on challenging human/non-human, mind/matter dichotomies (symmetrical)

•Emphasis on skill and embodied practice and experience

•The forms that objects take do not begin with a preconceived image of the finished product in the mind, but rather arises out the engagement between people and the material world through skilled practice.

•Objects are not surfaces over which a layer of cultural meaning is placed. The meaning of objects arises only through their involvement in social practices. As their social contexts change, the meanings of objects can change.


•Attempts to breakdown dichotomy between society (humans) and technology (non-humans)

•Gives equal weight to humans and non-humans in the constitution of social life (symmetrical)

•Focuses on heterogeneous networks of people and things. Social relations and agency arise out of these network relations (human and non-human interactions)

•Inductive and primarily descriptive approach


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