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.

The Material Representing the Cultural Universe. Objects, Symbols and Cultural Categories

The Material Representing the Cultural Universe. Objects, Symbols and Cultural Categories

The material representing the cultural universe. objects, symbols and cultural categories

Summary of Chapter Contents

This chapter reviews ‘cultural’ theories of material culture. These approaches are not formally semiotic or structural like the models considered in the previous chapter, however they situate objects as crucial to the practice and processes of culture. There are five main sections:

  • an outline of the way tastes and preferences for particular objects and things are linked to cultural narratives
  • a review of the foundational work of Durkheim and Mauss on culture and classification, showing its relevance to material culture studies
  • a discussion of how contemporary scholars have applied, refined and developed the Durkheimian tradition in studies of technological objects
  • a review of the work ...
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