front cover of American Artifacts
American Artifacts
Essays in Material Culture
Jules David Prown
Michigan State University Press, 2000

When defining culture, one must indeed take into account even the minutest of details. What of a lighter, for example, or a telephone? The essays in this new collection examine just that. The contributors pose not only a historical, pragmatic use for the items, but also delve into more imaginative aspects of what defines us as Americans. Both the lighter and the telephone are investigated, as well as how the lava lamp represents sixties counterculture and containment. The late nineteenth-century corset is discussed as an embodiment of womanhood, and an Amish quilt is used as an illustration of cultural continuity. These are just a few of the artifacts discussed. Scholars will be intrigued by the historical interpretations that contributors proposed concerning a teapot, card table, and locket; students will not only find merit in the expositions, but also by learning from the models how such interpretation can be carried out. This collection helps us understand that very thing that makes us who we are. Viewing these objects from both our past and our present, we can begin to define what it is to be American.


front cover of Architectural Representation in Medieval Textual and Material Culture
Architectural Representation in Medieval Textual and Material Culture
Hannah M. Bailey
Arc Humanities Press, 2023
Exploring the work of writers, illuminators, and craftspeople, this volume demonstrates the pervasive nature of architecture as a category of medieval thought. The architectural remnants of the past—from castles and cathedrals to the lowliest village church—provide many people with their first point of contact with the medieval period and its culture. Such concrete survivals provide a direct link to both the material experience of medieval people and the ideological and imaginative worldview which framed their lives. The studies collected in this volume show how attention to architectural representation can contribute to our understanding of not only the history of architectural thought but also the history of art, the intersection between textual and material culture, and the medieval experience of space and place.

front cover of Artisans, Objects and Everyday Life in Renaissance Italy
Artisans, Objects and Everyday Life in Renaissance Italy
The Material Culture of the Middling Class
Paula Hohti Erichsen
Amsterdam University Press, 2020
Did ordinary Italians have a ‘Renaissance’? This book presents the first in-depth exploration of how artisans and small local traders experienced the material and cultural Renaissance. Drawing on a rich blend of sixteenthcentury visual and archival evidence, it examines how individuals and families at artisanal levels (such as shoemakers, barbers, bakers and innkeepers) lived and worked, managed their household economies and consumption, socialised in their homes, and engaged with the arts and the markets for luxury goods. It demonstrates that although the economic and social status of local craftsmen and traders was relatively low, their material possessions show how these men and women who rarely make it into the history books were fully engaged with contemporary culture, cultural customs and the urban way of life.

front cover of Constructing the Maya
Constructing the Maya
Ethnicity, State Formation, and Material Culture in Yucatán, Chiapas, and Guatemala, Volume 55
Paul K. Eiss, special issue editor
Duke University Press
This special issue of Ethnohistory is a significant contribution to the history and anthropology of the Maya in both Mexico and Guatemala. Utilizing a comparative analytic framework, these essays explore the ethnic dimensions—indigeneity, indigenismo, mestizaje, racial subjugation—of state formation as well as state practice in indigenous regions. The contributors emphasize how the material aspects of state formation—roads and infrastructure; model villages; restored ruins; portrait photography; highland marketplaces; modern improvements; traditional cultural performances, artifacts, and dress—become theaters for the construction and reconstruction of ethnic and political entities and relationships. Taken as a whole, the collection challenges a tendency toward the segmentation of the discussion of the Maya into distinct disciplines (anthropology and history), national historiographies (Mexican and Guatemalan), and, within Mexico, distinct regional historiographies (Yucatán and Chiapas).

Contributors: David Carey Jr., Paul K. Eiss, Ben Fallaw, Stephen E. Lewis, Walter E. Little, John M. Watanabe


front cover of Cultural Transmission and Material Culture
Cultural Transmission and Material Culture
Breaking Down Boundaries
Edited by Miriam T. Stark, Brenda J. Bowser, and Lee Horne
University of Arizona Press, 2008
How and why people develop, maintain, and change cultural boundaries through time are central issues in the social and behavioral sciences in generaland anthropological archaeology in particular. What factors influence people to imitate or deviate from the behaviors of other group members? How are social group boundaries produced, perpetuated, and altered by the cumulative outcomeof these decisions? Answering these questions is fundamental to understanding cultural persistence and change. The chapters included in this stimulating, multifaceted book address these questions.

Working in several subdisciplines, contributors report on research in the areas of cultural boundaries, cultural transmission, and the socially organized nature of learning. Boundaries are found not only within and between the societies in these studies but also within and between the communities of scholars who study them. To break down these boundaries, this volume includes scholars who use multiple theoretical perspectives, including practice theory and evolutionary traditions, which are sometimes complementary and occasionally clashing. Geographic coverage ranges from the indigenous Americas to Africa, the Near East, and South Asia, and the time frame extends from the prehistoric or precontact to colonial periods and up to the ethnographic present. Contributors include leading scholars from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Together, they employ archaeological, ethnographic, ethnoarchaeological,experimental, and simulation data to link micro-scale processes of cultural transmission to macro-scale processes of social group boundary formation, continuity, and change.

front cover of Designing Modern Childhoods
Designing Modern Childhoods
History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children
Gutman, Marta
Rutgers University Press, 2008
With the advent of urbanization in the early modern period, the material worlds of children were vastly altered. In industrialized democracies, a broad consensus developed that children should not work, but rather learn and play in settings designed and built with these specific purposes in mind. Unregulated public spaces for children were no longer acceptable; and the cultural landscapes of children's private lives were changed, with modifications in architecture and the objects of daily life.

In Designing Modern Childhoods, architectural historians, social historians, social scientists, and architects examine the history and design of places and objects such as schools, hospitals, playgrounds, houses, cell phones, snowboards, and even the McDonald's Happy Meal. Special attention is given to how children use and interpret the spaces, buildings, and objects that are part of their lives, becoming themselves creators and carriers of culture. The authors extract common threads in children's understandings of their material worlds, but they also show how the experience of modernity varies for young people across time, through space, and according to age, gender, social class, race, and culture.

front cover of The Economy and Material Culture of Russia, 1600-1725
The Economy and Material Culture of Russia, 1600-1725
Richard Hellie
University of Chicago Press, 1999
In this extraordinary and definitive study of the Russian economy from 1600-1725, Richard Hellie offers a glimpse of the material life of the people of Muscovy during that tumultuous period—how they lived, what they ate, how they were taxed, what their wages allowed them to enjoy. Making these determinations required more than a decade of work and analysis of over 107,000 records. The resulting book devotes chapters to each category of consumer goods, in which transactions involving the product are summarized. Hellie further provides notes and commentary on the transactions to locate their place in the full Russian economy.

Impressive in scope and data analysis, Economy and Material Culture of Russia, 1600-1725 will be an invaluable resource and reference work for all readers interested in economic history and the history of material culture. Since there is no comparable one-volume work for any other society at any other time in history, Hellie's is a truly unique and profound achievement.


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Elusive Archives
Material Culture in Formation
Martin Brückner
University of Delaware Press, 2021
The essays that comprise Elusive Archives raise a common question: how do we study material culture when the objects of study are transient, evanescent, dispersed or subjective? Such things resist the taxonomic protocols that institutions, such as museums and archives, rely on to channel their acquisitions into meaningful collections. What holds these disparate things together here are the questions authors ask of them. Each essay creates by means of its method a provisional collection of things, an elusive archive.  Scattered matter then becomes fixed within each author’s analytical framework rather than within the walls of an archive’s reading room or in cases along a museum corridor.

This book follows the ways in which objects may be identified, gathered, arranged, conceptualized and even displayed rather than by “discovering” artifacts in an archive and then asking how they came to be there. The authors approach material culture outside the traditional bounds of learning about the past. Their essays are varied not only in subject matter but also in narrative format and conceptual reach, making the volume accessible and easy to navigate for a quick reference or, if read straight through, build toward a new way to think about material culture.

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Entangled Objects
Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific
Nicholas Thomas
Harvard University Press, 1991

Entangled Objects threatens to dislodge the cornerstone of Western anthropology by rendering permanently problematic the idea of reciprocity. All traffic, and commerce, whether economic or intellectual, between Western anthropologists and the rest of the world, is predicated upon the possibility of establishing reciprocal relations between the West and the indigenous peoples it has colonized for centuries.

Drawing on his work on contemporary postcolonial Pacific societies, Nicholas Thomas takes up three issues central to modern anthropology: the cultural and political dynamics of colonial encounters, the nature of Western and non-Western transactions (such as the gift and the commodity), and the significance of material objects in social life. Along the way, he raises doubts about any simple “us/them” dichotomy between Westerners and Pacific Islanders, challenging the preoccupation of anthropology with cultural difference by stressing the shared history of colonial entanglement.

Thomas integrates general issues into a historical discussion of the uses Pacific Islanders and Europeans have made of each other’s material artifacts. He explores how nineteenth- and twentieth-century islanders, and visitors from the time of the Cook voyages up to the present day, have fashioned identities for themselves and each other by appropriating and exchanging goods. Previous writers have explored museums and the tribal art market, but this is the first book to concentrate on the distinct interests of European collectors and the islanders. In its comparative scope, its combination of historical and ethnographic scholarship, and its subversive approach to anthropological theory and traditional understandings of colonial relationships, Entangled Objects is a unique and challenging book. It will be tremendously interesting to all those working in the fields of cultural studies, from history to literature.


front cover of Excavations at Snaketown
Excavations at Snaketown
Material Culture
Harold S. Gladwin, Emil W. Haury, E. B. Sayles, and Nora Gladwin
University of Arizona Press, 1965
"[Gladwin] accomplished, from the 1920's on, a series of fundamentally important studies of the prehistoric cultures of the region from Texas to California. None of these surveys or excavations was more important than the excavation of Snaketown, in the southern Arizona desert. It provided a wealth of details for a major prehistoric culture, the Hohokam, which previously had been scarcely recognized. It dislodged many long-held dogmas of Southwestern archaeology and provided the basis for a major reorientation in thinking about the nature of the prehistoric occupations of Arizona and adjacent states. . . . [This volume] has remained indispensable for its detailed reporting of house remains, ball courts, canals, cremations, pottery, carved stone, and other artifacts."—Science

"The reprint will come as a blessing to many archaeologists who have sought in vain to obtain a copy of the original volume. It now stands as a body of data easily accessible to all workers, and we look forward to a new phase of synthesis of Hohokam archaeology."—American Antiquity

front cover of Image and Logic
Image and Logic
A Material Culture of Microphysics
Peter Galison
University of Chicago Press, 1997
"I want to get at the blown glass of the early cloud chambers and the oozing noodles of wet nuclear emulsion; to the resounding crack of a high-voltage spark arcing across a high-tension chamber and leaving the lab stinking of ozone; to the silent, darkened room, with row after row of scanners sliding trackballs across projected bubble-chamber images. Pictures and pulses—I want to know where they came from, how pictures and counts got to be the bottom-line data of physics." (from the preface)

Image and Logic is the most detailed engagement to date with the impact of modern technology on what it means to "do" physics and to be a physicist. At the beginning of this century, physics was usually done by a lone researcher who put together experimental apparatus on a benchtop. Now experiments frequently are larger than a city block, and experimental physicists live very different lives: programming computers, working with industry, coordinating vast teams of scientists and engineers, and playing politics.

Peter L. Galison probes the material culture of experimental microphysics to reveal how the ever-increasing scale and complexity of apparatus have distanced physicists from the very science that drew them into experimenting, and have fragmented microphysics into different technical traditions much as apparatus have fragmented atoms to get at the fundamental building blocks of matter. At the same time, the necessity for teamwork in operating multimillion-dollar machines has created dynamic "trading zones," where instrument makers, theorists, and experimentalists meet, share knowledge, and coordinate the extraordinarily diverse pieces of the culture of modern microphysics: work, machines, evidence, and argument.

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Instrumental Lives
Musical Instruments, Material Culture, and Social Networks in East and Southeast Asia
Edited by Helen Rees
University of Illinois Press, 2024
The musical instruments of East and Southeast Asia enjoy increasing recognition as parts of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. Helen Rees edits a collection that offers vibrant new ways to link these objects to their materials of manufacture, the surrounding environment, the social networks they form and help sustain, and the wider ethnic or national imagination. Rees organizes the essays to reflect three angles of inquiry. The first section explores the characteristics and social roles of various categories of instruments, including the koto and an extinct Balinese wooden clapper. In section two, essayists focus on the life stories of individual instruments ranging from an heirloom Chinese qin to end-blown flutes in rural western Mongolia. Essays in the third section examine the ethics and other issues that surround instrument collections, but also show how collecting is a dynamic process that transforms an instrument’s habitat and social roles.

Original and expert, Instrumental Lives brings a new understanding of how musical instruments interact with their environments and societies. Contributors: Supeena Insee Adler, Marie-Pierre Lissoir, Terauchi Naoko, Jennifer C. Post, Helen Rees, Xiao Mei, Tyler Yamin, and Bell Yung


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The Lives of Objects
Material Culture, Experience, and the Real in the History of Early Christianity
Maia Kotrosits
University of Chicago Press, 2020
Our lives are filled with objects—ones that we carry with us, that define our homes, that serve practical purposes, and that hold sentimental value. When they are broken, lost, left behind, or removed from their context, they can feel alien, take on a different use, or become trash. The lives of objects change when our relationships to them change.

Maia Kotrosits offers a fresh perspective on objects, looking beyond physical material to consider how collective imagination shapes the formation of objects and the experience of reality. Bringing a psychoanalytic approach to the analysis of material culture, she examines objects of attachment—relationships, ideas, and beliefs that live on in the psyche—and illustrates how people across time have anchored value systems to the materiality of life. Engaging with classical studies, history, anthropology, and literary, gender, and queer studies, Kotrosits shows how these disciplines address historical knowledge and how an expanded definition of materiality can help us make connections between antiquity and the contemporary world.

front cover of Making Easy Listening
Making Easy Listening
Material Culture and Postwar American Recording
Tim Anderson
University of Minnesota Press, 2006
The period between the Second World War and the mid-1960s saw the American music industry engaged in a fundamental transformation in how music was produced and experienced. Tim Anderson analyzes three sites of this music revolution: the change from a business centered around live performances to one based on selling records, the custom of simultaneously bringing out multiple versions of the same song, and the arrival of in-home high-fidelity stereo systems. 

Making Easy Listening presents a social and cultural history of the contentious, diverse, and experimental culture of musical production and enjoyment that aims to understand how recording technologies fit into and influence musicians’, as well as listeners’, lives. With attention to the details of what it means to play a particular record in a distinct cultural context, Anderson connects neglected genres of the musical canon—classical and easy listening music, Broadway musicals, and sound effects records—with the development of sound aesthetics and technical music practices that leave an indelible imprint on individuals. Tracing the countless impacts that this period of innovation exacted on the mass media, Anderson reveals how an examination of this historical era—and recorded music as an object—furthers a deeper understanding of the present-day American music industry. 

Tim J. Anderson is assistant professor of communication at Denison University.

front cover of Material Culture and (Forced) Migration
Material Culture and (Forced) Migration
Materializing the Transient
Edited by Friedemann Yi-Neumann, Andrea Lauser, Antonie Fuhse, and Peter J. Bräunlein
University College London, 2022
An innovative material culture perspective on migration research.

Material Culture and (Forced) Migration argues that materiality is a fundamental dimension of migration. People take things with them, or they lose, find, and engage things along the way. Movements themselves are framed by objects such as borders, passports, tents, camp infrastructures, boats, and mobile phones. This volume brings together chapters on a broad range of movements—from forced migration and displacement to retirement migration. What ties the chapters together is their perspective of material culture.
Centering on four interconnected themes—temporality and materiality, methods of object-based migration research, the affective capacities of objects, and the engagement of things in place-making practices—the volume provides a material culture perspective for migration scholars around the globe, from a wide range of disciplines. The chapters’ focus on everyday objects and practices will appeal to all those interested in the tangible experiences of migration.

front cover of The Material Culture of Writing
The Material Culture of Writing
edited by Cydney Alexis and Hannah J. Rule
University Press of Colorado, 2022
The Material Culture of Writing opens up avenues for understanding writing through scholarship in material culture studies. Contributors to this volume each interrogate an object, set of objects, or writing environment to reveal the sociomaterial contexts from which writing emerges. The artifacts studied are both contemporary and historical, including ink, a Victorian hotel visitors’ book, Moleskine notebooks, museum conservators’ files, an early twentieth-century baby book, and a college campus makerspace. Close study of such artifacts not only enriches understanding of what counts as writing but also offers up the potential for rich current and historical inquiry into writing artifacts and environments.
The collection features scholars across the disciplines—such as art, art history, English, museum studies, and writing studies—who work as teachers, historians, museum curators/conservators, and faculty. Each chapter features methods and questions from contributors’ own disciplines while at the same time speaking to writing studies’ interest in writers, writing identity, and writing practice. The authors in this volume also work with a variety of methodologies, including literary analysis, archival research, and qualitative research, providing models for the types of research possible using a material culture studies framework. The collection is organized into three sections—Writing Identity, Writing Work, Writing Genre—each with a contextualizing introduction from the editors that introduces the chapters themselves and imagines possible directions for writing studies research facilitated by material culture studies.
The Material Culture of Writing serves as an accessible introduction to work in material culture studies for writing studies scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates, especially as it makes a distinctive contribution to writing studies in its material culture studies approach. Because of the interdisciplinarity of material culture studies and this volume’s contributors, this collection will appeal to a wide range of scholars and readers, including those interested in writing studies, the history of the book, print culture, genre studies, archival methods, and authorship studies.
Contributors: Cydney Alexis, Debby Andrews, Diane Ehrenpreis, Keri Epps, Desirée Henderson, Kevin James, Jenny Krichevsky, Anne Mackay, Emilie Merrigan, Laura R. Micciche, Hannah J. Rule, Kate Smith

front cover of Mediating Netherlandish Art and Material Culture in Asia
Mediating Netherlandish Art and Material Culture in Asia
Edited by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann and Michael North
Amsterdam University Press, 2014
While the socio-economic and historical aspects of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) have been extensively documented and researched, the role of the VOC in visual culture and the arts has been relatively neglected. This authoritative volume addresses various aspects of cultural exchange between the Low Countries and Asia. Increased prosperity and the flood of imported goods from Asia had a huge influence on seventeenth-century Holland. To cite some examples: when the VOC spread its merchandise throughout the various regions of Asia, Chinese decorative motives became popular in Indonesia. After the lifting of the seventeenth-century ban on the import of Christian books to Japan, a wave of interest in Dutch culture hit the country, giving rise to Hollandmania, imitation of anything Dutch.Mediating Netherlandish Art and Material Culture in Asia offers new insights into the world routes travelled by seventeenth-century Dutch visual culture, as well as the rise of Asian influence in the imagery of the Dutch Golden Age.

front cover of Medieval Women, Material Culture, and Power
Medieval Women, Material Culture, and Power
Matilda Plantagenet and her Sisters
Jitske Jasperse
Arc Humanities Press, 2020
This book argues that the impressive range of belongings that can be connected to Duchess Matilda Plantagenet—textiles, illuminated manuscripts, coins, chronicles, charters, and literary texts—allows us to perceive elite women’s performance of power, even when they are largely absent from the official documentary record. It is especially through the visual record of material culture that we can hear female voices, allowing us to forge an alternative way toward rethinking assumptions about power for sparsely-documented elite women.

front cover of Oysters in the Land of Cacao
Oysters in the Land of Cacao
Archaeology, Material Culture, and Societies at Islas de Los Cerros and the Western Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico
Bradley E. Ensor
University of Arizona Press, 2020
For decades, the Chontalpa region of Tabasco, Mexico, conjured images of the possible origins of the Itzá, who migrated, conquered, or otherwise influenced much of Mesoamerica. In Oysters in the Land of Cacao, archaeologist Bradley E. Ensor provides an important resource for Mesoamerican Gulf Coast archaeology by offering a new and detailed picture of the coastal sites vital to understanding regional interactions and social dynamics.

This book synthesizes data from multiyear investigations at a coastal site complex in Tabasco—Islas de Los Cerros (ILC)—providing the first modern, systematic descriptions and analyses of material culture that challenge preconceptions while enabling new perspectives on cultural developments from the Formative to Late Classic periods through the lens of regional comparisons and contemporary theoretical trends. Ensor introduces a political ecological understanding of the environment and archaeological features, overturns a misconception that the latter were formative shell middens, provides an alternative pottery classification more appropriate for the materials and for contemporary theory, and introduces new approaches for addressing formation processes and settlement history.

Building on the empirical analyses and discussions of problems in Mesoamerican archaeology, this book contributes new approaches to practice and agency perspectives, holistically integrating intra- and interclass agency, kinship strategies, gender and age dynamics, layered cultural identities, landscapes, social memory, and foodways and feasting. Oysters in the Land of Cacao addresses issues important to coastal archaeology within and beyond Mesoamerica. It delivers an overdue regional synthesis and new observations on settlement patterns, elite power, and political economies.

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Visualizing Community
Art, Material Culture, and Settlement in Byzantine Cappadocia
Robert G. Ousterhout
Harvard University Press

Cappadocia, a picturesque volcanic region of central Anatolia, preserves the best evidence of daily life in the Byzantine Empire and yet remains remarkably understudied, better known to tourists than to scholars. The area preserves an abundance of physical remains: at least a thousand rock-cut churches or chapels, of which more than one-third retain significant elements of their painted decoration, as well as monasteries, houses, entire towns and villages, underground refuges, agricultural installations, storage facilities, hydrological interventions, and countless other examples of non-ecclesiastical architecture. In dramatic contrast to its dearth of textual evidence, Cappadocia is unrivaled in the Byzantine world for its material culture.

Based upon the close analysis of material and visual residues, Visualizing Community offers a critical reassessment of the story and historiography of Byzantine Cappadocia, with chapters devoted to its architecture and painting, as well as to its secular and spiritual landscapes. In the absence of a written record, it may never be possible to write a traditional history of the region, but, as Robert Ousterhout shows, it is possible to visualize the kinds of communities that once formed the living landscape of Cappadocia.


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Willa Cather and Material Culture
Real-World Writing, Writing the Real World
Edited by Janis P. Stout
University of Alabama Press, 2004
A compilation of essays focusing on the significance of material culture to Cather’s work and Cather scholarship.

Willa Cather and Material Culture is a collection of 11 new essays that tap into a recent and resurgent interest among Cather scholars in addressing her work and her career through the lens of cultural studies. One of the volume's primary purposes is to demonstrate the extent to which Cather did participate in her culture and to correct the commonplace view of her as a literary connoisseur set apart from her times.

The contributors explore both the objects among which Cather lived and the objects that appear in her writings, as well as the commercial constraints of the publishing industry in which her art was made and marketed. Essays address her relationship to quilts both personally and as symbols in her work; her contributions to domestic magazines such as Home Monthly and Woman's Home Companion; the problematic nature of Hollywood productions of her work; and her efforts and successes as a businesswoman. By establishing the centrality of material matters to her writing, these essays contribute to the reclaiming of Cather as a modernist and highlight the significance of material culture, in general, to the study of American literature.


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