The Handbook of Material Culture provides a critical survey of the theories, concepts, intellectual debates, substantive domains, and traditions of study characterizing the analysis of "things." This cutting-edge work examines the current state of material culture as well as how this field of study may be extended and developed in the future.

Agency, Biography and Objects

Agency, Biography and Objects

Agency, biography and objects

Anthropologists since Mauss (1924/1954) and Malinowski (1922) have asserted that the lines between persons and things are culturally variable, and not drawn in the same way in all societies. In certain contexts, persons can seem to take on the attributes of things and things can seem to act almost as persons. Studies of traditional exchange systems (from Boas and Malinowski to Strathern, Munn and Campbell) have elaborated on this insight by detailing how objects can be given a gender, name, history and ritual function. Some objects can be so closely associated with persons as to seem inalienable (Weiner 1992), and some persons – slaves, dependants – can have their own humanity depreciated so as to approach the status ...

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