Why are i-pods and mobile phones fashion accessories? Why do people spend thousands remodelling their perfectly functional kitchen? Why do people crave shoes or handbags? Is our desire for objects unhealthy, or irrational?

Objects have an inescapable hold over us, not just in consumer culture but increasingly in the disciplines that study social relations too. This book offers a systematic overview of the diverse ways of studying the material as culture. Surveying the field of material culture studies through an examination and synthesis of classical and contemporary scholarship on objects, commodities, consumption, and symbolization, this book: Introduces the key concepts and approaches in the study of objects and their meanings; Presents the full sweep of core theory – from Marxist and critical approaches to structuralism and semiotics – to evaluate the frameworks for approaching the material world; Shows how and why people use objects to perform identity, achieve social status, and narrativize life experiences; Analyzes everyday domains in which objects are important: social status, identity, social performance and narrativization; Shows why studying material culture is necessary for understanding the social.

This book will be essential reading for students and researchers in sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, consumer behaviour studies, design and fashion studies.

Studying Material Culture. Origins and Premises

Studying material culture. Origins and premises

Summary of Chapter Contents

This chapter has two main sections which:

  • review the interdisciplinary origins of material culture studies
  • summarise the basic premises of the material culture approach.

The Nature and Growth of Material Culture Studies

This chapter introduces the most important disciplinary influences in the formation of what is understood as the material culture perspective. Studies of material culture have a multidisciplinary history and their origins can be traced to a range of theoretical literatures and research traditions, some of which have faded in their popularity and others which are burgeoning. The fields of research discussed are: (i) evolutionary anthropology (ii) modern sociology and social theory (iii) marketing and psychological approaches to consumer behaviour, (iv) consumption studies within ...

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