Materials play a central role in society. Beyond the physical and chemical properties of materials, their cultural properties have often been overlooked in anthropological studies: finished products have been perceived as ‘social’ yet the materials which comprise them are considered ‘raw’ or natural’. The Social Life of Materials proposes a new perspective in this interdisciplinary field. Diverting attention from the consumption of objects, the book looks towards the properties of materials and how these exist through many transformations in a variety of cultural contexts.Human societies have always worked with materials. However, the customs and traditions surrounding this differ according to the place, the time and the material itself. Whether or not the material is man-made, materials are defined by social intervention. Today, these constitute one of the most exciting areas of global scientific research and innovation, harboring the potential to act as key vehicles of change in the world. But this ‘materials revolution’ has complex social implications. Smart materials are designed to anticipate our actions and needs, yet we are increasingly unable to apprehend the composite materials which comprise new products.Bringing together ethnographic studies of cultures from around the world, this collection explores the significance of materials by moving beyond questions of what may be created from them. Instead, the text argues that the materials themselves represent a shifting ground around which relationships, identities and powers are constantly formed and dissolved in the act of making and remaking. Read more
Review “The Social Life of Materials proves beyond a doubt that anthropologists cannot rest with an anthropology of objects because objects are compositions and transformations of materials that have their own biography, meaning, and morality. The chapters here are a successful commencement of a much richer anthropology of materials. – Anthropology Review Database Overall, this is a welcome volume that offers a wealth of insights, extends current debates in material culture, and brings us to a better understanding of the way materials affect and transform our daily lives. – Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute – Geoffrey Gowlland” About the Author Adam Drazin lectures in the Department of Anthropology at University College London, UK, where he coordinates the MA in Materials, Anthropology and Design. Susanne Küchler is Professor in Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London, UK.
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