American Artifact Culture Essay In Material

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(Tilley, 2004:1) A further ethnographically based approach is to problematize the dualism between gift (as inalienable and non-Western) and commodity (as alienable and Western) as discussed by Mauss (2001) [1925] in relation to gift giving, and Marx (1976) [1867] in relation to commodity in systems of exchange (Miller, 2001).

For Miller ethnography is the absolute fulcrum of anthropological study, and it is this which teases out the limitations of universalizing theory such as that of Bourdieu and Lévi-Strauss’ structuralist method.

Anthropology is the study of social relationships and material culture is the study of objects.

Objects are closely linked to what people do and social processes, for as Simmel argues…

Discussions concerning things which have ‘biographies’ highlight many issues and cover many disciplines such as art history (Baxandall, 1974) and economics and consumption (Miller, 1995; Fine, 2002) – all of which are far too numerous to mention within the space of this essay.

My focus on what biographies of objects bring to light will be on objectification (Miller, 1987), the metaphorical materiality of text and image (Tilley, 2004, 1999, 1991), and recontextualization (Thomas, 2001, 1991) and the artefact as event (Strathern, 1990).

‘human values do not exist other than through their objectification in material forms’ (Miller, 1998b:19).

This rationalization can also be extended to allow a certain rationalization of the being of objects and an argument for the ontology of things (Gell, 1998: Latour, 1993).

I remember once writing an essay whilst doing an MA at UCL in Material and Visual Culture.

Much of it can be applied to thinking about our object here, the toy car...


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