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INTRODUCTION

Studies of material culture have undergone a


profound transform.ation during the past twenty
years and are now among the most dynamic and
wide-ranging areas of contemporary scholar
ship in the human sciences. This is reflected in
an impressive volume of research activity, and
a flood of hooks, edited coileetions, review
articles and papers devoted to this field..An
international journal, the journo! of Material
Culturta first published in 1996, reaches an
audience of a rchaeolog,tsrs, anthropologists,
sociologists,
historians and
people working in cultural, design and techno
i.ogical studies. Although quei.tions of materi
ality pervade a wide range of disciplines in the
social and human sciences, no single academic
discipline unifies the various approach.es to
material culture and gives therna n institia
nonai identtts. One consequence is that ques
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different venues are no..t always brought to. bear


on those in others, The editors. consider the
field of material studies to have reached a suf
ficient degree of maturity that the tim has
mrne for a single comorehensive review of the
f:eid, Li. that end, we have commiss:oned the
r,.

anthropology) or time (archaeology and history)


nr space (geography) or representations (literary
and art historical studies) or a focus on relations
ot production, exchange and consumption ceo
nomiesl. Matenal culture studies may be held
simultaneously to mterseet with and to tran
scend the special concerns of these and other
disciplines. Such an intellectual field of study
is inevitably eclectic: relatively unbounded and
unconstrained, fluid, di:.s.persed and anarchic
tat
r,+ed r u e It N rdNu
an
riined rather than discipifned. Thh, we regard as
a strength rather than a,veakness and an alter
native to the inevitable disciplinary restrictions
with regard to research which is validated, or
otherwise, as valuable, serious or appropriate.
In this sense, and in relation to other disci
pifnes wtth rheir in-huIt hierarchies and legit
imizing powers and ancestors, material culture
studies might he regarded as an academic
manifestation e,f characterizations of our con
tem.porary cultural condition as postmodern,
involving indeterminacy, immanence or becom
ing, ambiuit, heterodoxy and pluralisnu As
a field ot research transcending established
diseipdnes ina:tertai culture studies are always
-w ia
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tfemseives and their obiects of study, cros;s
fertthizing various other disciplined ideas
and influences: impure, contingent, dynamic,
Historically, howeveg they do have a primary
disnplinarv home and point at origin cci thin
a, as i,, ,rcs a r
g en ad nt nplt 2
nNorw rv 12
,r

culture as its principal source of evidence


about the human past while the study of mate
rial culture has always been a component of
social anthropological studies, which have his
torfcady been to a reater or lesser exten.t high
lighted and foregrnunded or neglected and
dismissed. However, neither discipilne has
sought to define itself in terms of the study of
things and their relations to persons in quite
the same way as envisaged in the structure
and organization of this Handbook. By bringing

material culture in its various dimensions.

At present, material culture studies .fo.rm a


di,ffuse and reiahveiy uncharted .interdiscipfi

nary field of study in which a concept of mated


0 2 u or
e
nea
N e d
rv,J ,e es C e
idea that materiahtv is an integral dims nsion at
eufhire, and that there a.re dimensiens of social
exIstence that cannot be fully understood with
out it, Yet the material and the cultural are
com,monly regarded as fundam.entally opposed,
w n, anee is the h c
the w tecoie
The thrust of this Hdndheok is to emphasize th,at
V,-

the study of the materai dimension is as funda


mental to understanding culture as is a focus on
language (formalized in the discipline of lin
guistics and linguistic anthropology) or social
relations (formalized in sociology and social

C
C

i
i
e
ia
i
op
ida
reuitl
rtu brf
kc f Wes em oloroal xpa so
i tie
there vas on rr to r cue or salvage vha
v as pcrceiv hi to bc left of p in tive culture
throughout he world, his was a time in
vhich thc great r iuseum collections were
established through systematic collectmg the
irst scientific nthropolog cal expedition to
the Torres Strait ed by Haddon in 1898 had
lie collection of artcfacts as one of its v apr
goal Many nore ollectrr g cxped tions vere
o t low through ut h v orld (dv n tie
assuriptio hat n tivs in h ii crc tories
ar beli f s tems ou d t be saved it leist
ie at rial sicues igh e pres vrved i
osn Ihsudy rat ac tueor d
r h
daiia
rt
e
a
n a dd batc cfth I v
e
o c p
hn kg
udi
db
casu a
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oidd
ir cabaso
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ia
iu

a
uur id
al
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c in
i
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hg
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it

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o
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i

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tel c
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n
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r
.1
i
so
ia
s
h t
F
do
c c c ud
ppose
h r ft
ge
alv fri
c trrc
cii
ca nc
ate t gs crc nmir y r
civ d as av
ut ta ax sigihc ri e fu
f lin th as
e a of h iman adaptation to
itferei ewir nn ts st c s a ecmolog cal
substra e of ife r alte na i ely, as passive
iarkers of social status and ethnic difference.
A study ot artetacts became rduced o a dry
discussion of technologies or a description
of matcria form ii ustratir g social context
irtefacts became reflections of that which vas
cemed fur da nental social elatio is, politica
a

pa
c
sin c
es
Ir a
esan
rcrad n gncisN th
F i ri i uitures becaif e cifi d as thir gs.
Schcmatic and abstracted views of soci 1
r lations iave given the standard ethnographic
if onograph from the 1920s onwards, a som&
what surreal character One sometimes reads
a vorid of social interactions where things
a e ither absent, or simply proi ide a kind of
aackdrop to relations between persons. Of
ourse virtually all ethnographies havc had to
dcscribe and discuss iv ateri 1 culturc and con
s dr ocia relations in a naterial setting bu
us I a all oo often been y default rather
in design Despite a stress on social rclat or s
i
would amtam that what is in fact mpl hi
a Fe esults of throoolc gical re sea
vie
his ha, b i a p
ipa or rr
an r pelogs or iot,
Ia re 5 ns n
i
rdcrs ood apar f on in gs
u i
terial cult re tud 5
0 i rn d wi I
cry i gournsgh uio ov rso
O

c
1
rHt

re

pos

loOshll o
F orci
dr
F ur t alst iti
if r
u Ii
b
fooyp
d
outoi
Cs
y
u
totie aide
a

a
F ia
I
rpec ethi
e,u

i
ecoc uaiz
0
i
ixLc
a
ci osi
I
c
rrsc
0
r Fa
o i
F
ith
a subdsi ics e
n
e in Fnisclvs
lyw h
t
d io
s
I sc
acsar
he,
et
oma hi ma s dd p y,dea
a Curl isrde F ig.
haeoogy urrl he 96s rraea
u C vas prma y g rdd as etc tmg
tF ic derti es the difu. cn of deas amorg
d fferent groups. mvasion, migration and ocial
ha g Artefacts provi led spatia and tempoa
arkers of thnic idertihes and pr manly
ef ected ideas in the i nds of their makers
Itematta ely they were studied in terms of
he technologies required to make them and
nderstood m terms of grand schemes of social
volution The new archaeology of the 1960s
aw the nse to pronur ence of precisely the

c
0
ii
I
or
oc
ru
vs,itso
ovo
rpoant
rtar exteutd xii
H clopric F wu F
r utcgnted ctF nogr p uc ur d arcl aeological
pproaches n ethr oa ha m ogicai stodues and
rchatologi al tudues of intemporarv r
nodern naterial culture From the 1980s
nwards the des elopur er t of vmbouc, ,trun
t uctoral-Ma i t urchaeologues F ad
t ira
cc r c r r t grung unrograptic ar
t na na
rcuae Hg al 0-ic ptu rut n
v ygiv
b F a
broad
to
rapr rt d r
u tar a ulturc had
i d
usia bok
t

rFlg

ha

c
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a
F
hal
a
u

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or

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a

xi

it

e tuu

xl

Jo

I
I
F
org
r
dir g
Fir
H vm urinn
tot wde
vo dsLi
ol r es md resear h tr ditio us, mu erial ultor
stodics a e inevJablv diverse In addition to ins
he v e v concept of materiality is itself he erogn
woos and ambigu us. Attempts at rigorous
definition are entangled with deep metaphoru
al roots and cultural onnotations Mcorthng
various dictior ary dcfinihons materiality
an i an ubsarce omc hng omprised
of lcment or c r ti u nts ot an uslv iv
osad iv att r t tangib
istir g r
e ,tienbstaru
Icy rldl
ud
las
po ad u he mgmarv id at ud v ue
ad
nc
F
r X5
hc onccp

at ia v S
llyu d
etc
fisfy
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uckgo ndo botl Aced


he Handbook pr
manly
the oisc p1w s o arc maeWogy ann
nthrc pology ud, me itably, o ne chauter
s ar d hc ontribut rs t

c mo e ar mae )logic

han o I er

or

n hropo ogica

Howevcr, the various ontributors

alsa freq en tly ite, re iew a ud discuss matena

rid
e a
poa
I
r
o
q
tug I oatiovz
rlvp pe
b
tuaphoncal v ,ard
-is po scs mg I e est
a
as HaLt
0 th
pir -a I
er I ultu
Was u no e
e analysis of a as maui of hings, or objects,
icn are endiessv on rse
tumg trom
packct of fast food to a F ouse to an cnti
tar dscape, and either m the past or is the pre
ent v ith
nte np rary urban and mdus
al c itures u in U uted States a d Europe
i
S

is
ns
as

LZ
s-.

--crlr
-,

re a u:a. a r c

t
oaf

maT,

p
br ta I
torrid a- marie,

modern. :rnpie ar

sTir
0 r
o c-, i-an
omUiogiec, m lets and i-nit-irOn, nrii e
-aJT to pcFOnai and soc;ai identi
5
-r
et
t
The relattonship hi things to htsrorv atul
ar- us

as nomm- -r
tras -riatc or ripb:le, ra o at
u-tous. uani r exour, n or aid, erriurarv
uecial. -,maIl ir monumentai, nadi:onat a:
,

at

mpiex

radtion. maivdual and collectr e memo


rtes. social stasis and social change. and
to concepts of space, place. concept and

kdternatireiv, material culture seudes mar

take the human sublect or the -oclal uS their


starting point: the manner in which people
think through themselves, and their lives and
dentities hrough the medium of different
kinds of things. Material culture studies in
anous ways inevitably hare to emphasize the
dialectical and recursive relationship between
ersons and things: that persons make and
use things and hat the things make pers ins
ubjc t and bjects re ndelibly nked.
irough co isidering ore wc find thc other
Ma erial -ulture is part and par el f aurian
ulture r beceral, and lust as the c -ic pt of
u urn a hundreds ot pote it a d initions
and r an festations and it- never lust o
ntitv
or thing o has the material aompcrcnt of
mlrure hcre a thing or an ohect and a person,
or a1ure and material cuiture, begin or cnd
an never cc denned in the aestract A: depends

on the context at analysis arid research.


Th studies n this Handbook are all a ariousiv
oncerned ruth the concept of materialita and
the urnceoeuaizarwn at things t un-c
5 ome
-1 inC inC-ri ones are as toliorr

ogs as ateraIJv existing ind a ang a


gn tcancc in the end mdc
dent of
nan action or irite
r
a
rnntain, an am ia
mated tv pe s r
rcompr
e
hichh
hu
a
rig
se
a
irs a

Ill

locality,
The relationship of things to the human
body. the body itself as a cultural and
sensuous thing which may move, present
and display itself in various ways, and
the manner in which things produce, con
train, extend and irut bodily capacities.

Preci ely because the tcnns mater ality and


mater al u hire defy any strict defiri ions,
that whicl s inc uporated in, or left out of, an
handbook su a as th s is alv ays hkelv to r na a
contentious rd a ira ter of debate. In crc y
part hi the Handbook the editors collectively
selected studies tnterded to exemplita a
much raider field. It would, of course, be
jmpossible to corer rierithing In the initial
outlines or the book we ljsted around forta
chapter topics the eviersors suggested me
ta-enty more and surely other revIewers
a- ould have added ret other, Ete Handbook
rrovtdes a select-on at what a er the count-c
at our discussion tre odtors agreed to regard
as rime ci- the most important, slgmhcant and
hare

ed-researched perspectives and domains or


r in an enormous iteld o

swat- or intercs
potential

unconsciou, structures ot thought and


a-li-ct, unacknowledged conditions. habits
or experiences, and unintended cerise
uences of social lire going beyond indavtd
1
c
ual intentional consciousness.

boundary
Their i
in
rein org ni
n
tue
ie t a
iculr

rd
ii
tasrequ d
ng
r a wfucn ese
v
a d mchauged an r p
er in which thing re
o
deas and ntentions c d iay e
as
r rnbiects,
foe manner in which things relate to
o

IP tI

anclu c tire b

n the Handh

fact that u

tt
c

have e

tu

atr
as

c
k tr

food

c, a
a
r

k a a
a ar
est

airnis ir
the r ob t of study
it i
specific cul u al
hi,,torical to t t
(2) those tha att irp
generalize bevord if
peciticity of tie p ticular case towards th
-ICing the signs cance, meaning and power of
material forms in onderstandmg the constitu
iron of soctal relations by exan-urung broader
categories such as studies of art, landscape,
memory technology, exchange and consump
hon either in relation to specific case studies or
cross-culturally; (3) more holistic cultural studies

.01,, TJ a-

cc :ec,
e ce9 an
ii dong 0 it
ails att iup s
e in
heor1es,
r
tuai d
s
t
d aditior
ted c r
-izing r
rest d
ic
ook
go 1 b
povding
sinp ii era re revi v
Va OU5 empircal
or
nceptu 1 domains Rati er than simplV
describing and discussing the I eld as it cur
rent exists, the Hanabook also attempts to
chart the future: the manner in which material
culture studies may be extended and further
developed

ORGAMZATION OF THE HANDBOOK


b ok is its ided
se parts [ii
r terial cut
t d
as a theor
1
1 a
a ptuai
ipter
Ite
sc
t s d ft
g

Iii

hr

story

us p

aches,

lb

g 000d,K

c
tc

oh

s
th

1 i

I and

iumc specific examples. As hould be lear,


the Hcrdbcak does Out c
am to represent one
1
logic thuoretical or dase plinirs perspertise or
methochlogiral apernach but a 55 Ide range,
tirg urrent rflO,ir, at thInking and
5
retie
wear,, I hr field
cond part ov
cc relationship

atenai rorm

stoho
t

th

rsh

.r e rider

ci trom the s

per
t particu
ther w
ur d
tin r r vhich t p icu

tic t

s It al
tr ting ti

,r c-es

t
f materi 1 forrrs an be understo d fr n
he perspect xc of gene a processes It at us
lustrate th di lectic of subjectis itt and c bjec
ivitv in the Lonstitut-ton of the meanings and
grnficances ot things

flus section includes

.ii,cussions of macn of the maior topIcs that


has e traditionally made up the core or empirical
material culture case studies.
The burt-h part ot the book, on process and
transformation, considers material culture
studies trom the nerspecns e or a basic mipar
nt-c biography ot things: thmgs made, things
exchanged, things consumed It then noves
in to consider h
anner in wh h
ags
ad their n
rigs b ome trar ter a d ir
erformatise
ot t nd issues o ti
d
a

and

ideri a

sb

ag

oiceptsa
,disidual un,
,atc aric,u
theo
al erspectls es to a s uds of materi
alit, rvd materlai .uitiJre C elation ti dIsdus

bet

t -iCui aPia

a o

ide cram

rc

erm
pective

mt a
r
c
s
r a ions
tl
e
calls cc aeo o i

titie fitth am
oniders u
ti
porarv politics and oct-irs or displaying upre
-encing and conserving ryiatenal ormc ci the
peccnt and the manner in UiLh inn :mpacts
.n rotions or tradion and ,uIa idents
Ladi ot tne indivadual chapters pros des a

len

storical a crc

jt the

t,p:c and a crctcai

recew of tUe pruupai i,terapre errnacizrng

.unceptual and

theorstica suc uaaug beyond

ame general -cx u v


re directror
Us interic

fix co

rr

t act also ruualls


search Icie I
0 Sills

ii

t a so to

ggest

b e

to e

is ii
t
a
ore
individu 1 s
nes and i
udder interd c p in ry field sketched

in

art focuses
b r-oh,ect rela
onsiders he mann
n u inch a wide
ann-v ,,-i material forms are related to diner
ing kin.,,s of suhectivities itd social relations,
Thee chapters xc ork out from the positiuning
of the subject to consider the manner n which
material torms produce, arid become inte
grated in, a particular perspective on the
world This part includes nighiv specific dis
cussion of both particula naterial domains
I e
rion I

he aim is to act as stimulus to ruturo irs arch


teat focuces specrficallv on the materiality of
the social worlds people inhabit rather than
this heng considered a peripheral issue to
other concerns. It is an insistence on the signif
icance and importance of investigating mater
ai domains that links what otherwise might be
-egarded as very in cerse approaches and topics
ogether.