It has become clichéd to say that we live in a material world, but how do we interact with material things? How do material things affect the way that we relate to each other, and do the things that we buy and use reflect our identities, or shape them? Can we talk about the 'social life' of things, and if so, can things, like people, have biographies? This module provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of material culture studies. Drawing upon case studies from archaeology, anthropology, geography, history, sociology, and science and technology studies, we will explore how an examination of everyday things, from the designs beer cans, or the composition of household refuse, to the designed spaces of houses, shopping malls, or airport lounges, or protest camps, can enable us to move beyond simply seeing material culture as a mute and passive medium.
After successfully completing this course students will have become:
This interdisciplinary course serves as an option for the History Department of History's Early History Modern MA, and for taught postgraduate courses in the Department of Archaeology. The course is structured around weekly seminars (Weeks 2-9). After a brief introduction by the tutor, selected students will lead discussions with short presentations, and all students are expected to have undertaken the key readings and to participate in seminar discussions. The final session will be a review and general discussion.
The probable programme will include readings on the following topics: