Theory and Practice in Archaeology (Material Cultures)


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Anthropology is most simply defined as the study of humans across time and space. To understand the culture in which an object is featured, an anthropologist looks at the object itself, its context, and the way that it was manufactured and used. The first anthropologist interested in studying material culture was Lewis Henry Morgan , in the midth century. He is most known for his research on kinship and social structures, but he also studied the effect of material culture, specifically technology, on the evolution of a society.

He believed that it was crucial for an anthropologist to analyze not only the physical properties of material culture but also its meanings and uses in its indigenous context to begin to understand a society. Durkheim saw material culture as one of the social facts that functions as a coercive force to maintain solidarity in a society.

In archaeology, the idea that social relations are embodied in material is well known and established, with extensive research on exchange, gift giving and objects as part of social ceremonies and events. However, in contradiction to archaeology, where scientists build on material remains of previous cultures, sociology tends to overlook the importance of material in understanding relationships and human social behavior.

Dan Hicks and Mary C. Beaudry

The social aspects in material culture include the social behavior around it: the way that the material is used, shared, talked about, or made. Museums and other material culture repositories, by their very nature, are often active participants in the heritage industry. Defined as "the business of managing places that are important to an area's history and encouraging people to visit them," the heritage industry relies heavily on material culture and objects to interpret cultural heritage.

The industry is fueled by a cycle of people visiting museums, historic sites, and collections to interact with ideas or physical objects of the past. In turn, the institutions profit through monetary donations or admission fees as well as the publicity that comes with word-of-mouth communications. That relationship is controversial, as many believe that the heritage industry corrupts the meaning and importance of cultural objects.

Often, scholars in the humanities take a critical view of the heritage industry, particularly heritage tourism, believing it to be a vulgar oversimplification and corruption of historic fact and importance.


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Others believe that the relationship and the financial stability it brings is often the element that allows curators , researchers, and directors to conserve material culture's legacy. Some observers advocate intentionally altering the material cultures created by current civilizations. For example, waste reduction advocates within environmentalism advocate teaching design approaches, such as cradle-to-cradle design and appropriate technology. Anti-consumerism advocates encourage consuming less thus creating fewer artifacts , engaging in more do-it-yourself projects and self-sufficiency changing the quality of artifacts produced , and localism impacts the geographic distribution and uniformity of artifacts.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Physical aspect of culture in the objects and architecture that surround people. The Material Culture of Multilingualism. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Polity Books. London: Routledge.

Numéros en texte intégral

Jackson, vol. The Journal of Economic Perspectives. Journal of Consumer Research. Personal Relationships. Understanding Material Culture. Retrieved 4 December Both handbooks are up to date on current stances in material culture understandings, and while they draw on different disciplines, both are particularly located and relevant to anthropology and archaeology. Usefully, both point toward future directions in research rather than just consolidating the field. Henare, et al. Alongside these edited collections, two single-authored books have been selected as useful summaries of the core ways in which material culture has been approached and also the implications of these approaches.

Both Woodward and Dant provide useful overviews for students of the implications of looking at material culture for social theory and understandings of contemporary society. Buchli, V. The material culture reader. Oxford: Berg.

ISBN 13: 9780415065207

Edited collection with topics ranging from visual culture to heritage to consumption; it draws together the work associated with the Material Culture Group at University College London. Suitable as an introduction to the field for undergraduate and postgraduate students and also those researching in the field. Dant, T. Material culture in the social world. Buckingham, UK: Open Univ. Introduction to the themes and theories of material culture and their relevance for sociology; especially suitable for sociology undergraduates.

Henare, A.

Material culture

Thinking through things: Theorising artefacts ethnographically. London: Routledge. Edited collection of global ethnographic encounters that, taken together, adopt the approach of thinking through things—developing theory through objects encountered in the field.

Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology MSc at University of York

Hicks, D. Beaudry, eds.

The Oxford handbook of material culture studies. Oxford: Oxford Univ. It includes twenty-eight chapters written by experts from a range of disciplines; however, rather than celebrate the interdisciplinarity of material culture studies, this handbook highlights discipline-specific positions. It is of particular interest to anthropology and archaeology researchers and students. Journal of Material Culture. Founded in Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis In this latest collection of his articles, of which seven are written especially for this volume, Ian Hodder captures and continues the lively controversy of the s over symbolic and structural approaches to archaeology.

The book acts as an overview of the developments in the discipline over the last decade; yet Hodder's brief is far wider. His aim is to break down the division between the intellectual and the "dirt" archaeologist to demonstrate that in this discipline more than any other, theory must be related to practice to save effectively our rapidly diminishing heritage. Excerpt The Material Cultures series crosses the traditional subject boundaries of archaeology, history and anthropology to consider human society in terms of its production, consumption and social structures.

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