Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter

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Daniel Miller
University of Chicago Press, Feb 17, 1998 - Social Science - 243 pages
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The field of material culture, while historically well established, has recently enjoyed something of a renaissance. Methods once dominated by Marxist- and commodity-oriented analyses and by the study of objects as symbols are giving way to a more ethnographic approach to artifacts. This orientation is the cornerstone of the essays presented in Material Cultures. A collection of case studies which move from the domestic sphere to the global arena, the volume includes examinations of the soundscape produced by home radios, catalog shopping, the role of paper in the workplace, and the relationship between the production and consumption of Coca-Cola in Trinidad.

The diversity of the essays is mediated by their common commitment to ethnography with a material focus. Rather than examine objects as mirages of media or language, Material Cultures emphasizes how the study of objects not only contributes to an understanding of artifacts but is also an effective means for studying social values and contradictions.

  

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Contents

Why some things matter
5
The domestic sphere
25
Radio texture between self and others
27
From woollen carpet to grass carpet bridging house and garden in an English suburb
49
Window shopping at home classifieds catalogues and new consumer skills
75
The public sphere
103
The message in paper
105
Material of culture fabric of identity
123
Calypsos consequences
149
The global sphere or the World Wide West
169
CocaCola a black sweet drink from Trinidad
171
Signs of the new nation gift exchange consumption and aid on a former collective farm in northwest Estonia
191
At home and abroad inalienable wealth personal consumption and formulations of femininity in the southern Philippines
217
Index
241
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About the author (1998)

Mukulika Banerjee Lecturer in Anthropology, University College London and author of The Parthan Unarmed.
Daniel Miller Professor of Anthropology, University College London. Recent books include "A Theory of Shopping," "The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach" (with Don Slater) and Ed. "Car Cultures."

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