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Introductory Essay Material Culture and the Meaning of Objects

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  • Center for the Study of Cuban Culture + Economy

Abstract

Objects surrounding us in our everyday lives enhance our material, personal, and even spiritual welfare beyond their utilitarian functions. Scholarly fields as seemingly disparate as cultural anthropology, consumer behavior, international marketing, semiotics, and human geography coalesce around the notion that objects function as mirrors that reflect both individual and societal images. These artifacts form the cornerstones of material culture that point out not only what we like, dislike and desire, but are also portals to cultures and behaviors of the past. In this way, the study of material culture is a useful venue to help us comprehend cultures and societies (Glacken 1976). Fortunately, making sense of material culture can be approached by a variety of theoretical frameworks, each one adding value through particular insights and epistemologies. This essay points to conceptual or theoretical frameworks that might be used to situate the eclectic cases presented in this special issue of Material Culture. In the section that follows, I outline some general features of archaeological theory, anthropological inquiries, Marx' theory of alienation and commodity fetishism, and the relationship between myth and material culture that might help us understand the " meanings of objects " that follow. On Theoretical Approaches to the Meaning of Objects Archaeological theory explores how people lived through interpreting the symbols and functions of artifacts. Gamble (2015) argues that the commonly shared knowledge or paradigms of anthropology are premised on cultural-historical, archaeological theory, anthropological, and postmodern elements. These approaches enlist an inductive method that aligns objects in their appropriate spatial and historical order. Yet, its descriptive approach, reflecting its theoretical development during European expansionism and colonialism (Said 1979), often
Vol. 48 (2016) No. 1 1
Introductory Essay
Joseph L. Scarpaci (Ph.D., University of Florida) is Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Cuban
Culture + Economy in Blacksburg, VA, USA. He has taught marketing courses at West Liberty University,
Virginia Military Institute, and Virginia Tech. Trained in economic and cultural geography, he has been on
the faculty of Rutgers University, e University of Iowa, and the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico.
Fulbright awards have funded overseas teaching and research assignments in Colombia, Uruguay and Chile.
His current research interests examine national identity and its manifestation in consumer goods and services
in welfare state nations.
Material Culture and the
Meaning of Objects
Joseph L. Scarpaci, Center for Cuban Culture + Economy
Objects surrounding us in our everyday lives enhance our material, personal,
and even spiritual welfare beyond their utilitarian functions. Scholarly elds as
seemingly disparate as cultural anthropology, consumer behavior, international
marketing, semiotics, and human geography coalesce around the notion that
objects function as mirrors that reect both individual and societal images. ese
artifacts form the cornerstones of material culture that point out not only what we
like, dislike and desire, but are also portals to cultures and behaviors of the past.
In this way, the study of material culture is a useful venue to help us comprehend
cultures and societies (Glacken 1976).
Fortunately, making sense of material culture can be approached by a variety
of theoretical frameworks, each one adding value through particular insights
and epistemologies. is essay points to conceptual or theoretical frameworks
that might be used to situate the eclectic cases presented in this special issue of
Material Culture. In the section that follows, I outline some general features of
archaeological theory, anthropological inquiries, Marx’ theory of alienation and
commodity fetishism, and the relationship between myth and material culture
that might help us understand the “meanings of objects” that follow.
On Theoretical Approaches to the Meaning of Objects
Archaeological theory explores how people lived through interpreting the symbols
and functions of artifacts. Gamble (2015) argues that the commonly shared
knowledge or paradigms of anthropology are premised on cultural-historical,
archaeological theory, anthropological, and postmodern elements. These
approaches enlist an inductive method that aligns objects in their appropriate
spatial and historical order. Yet, its descriptive approach, reecting its theoretical
development during European expansionism and colonialism (Said 1979), often
2 Material Culture
detracts from its interpretation of ancient objects and experiences (Renfrew and
Patin 1994). In her essay, Our Daily Bread in Italy: Its Meaning in the Roman Period
and Today, Consuelo Manetta unpacks the meanings of bread and bread-making
by, among other strategies, deciphering encryptions on ovens and tombstones. e
culinary identity of bread and pasta in Italy would seem indelible, yet few Italian
households produce and consume these products as they did thousands of years
ago, even though the ingredients and production techniques have changed little.
Anthropological inquiries into material culture are logical extensions of
archaeological theoretical approaches to the meaning of objects, with the caveat
that the topics of the former eld are often more contemporary and much more
interdisciplinary. e academic elds of economic anthropology, for instance,
have fused with marketing departments in business schools, and in very fruitful
ways at universities as seemingly disparate as Indiana University (USA) and e
University of Southern Denmark in Odense (Askegaard 2015). e goal is to
provide alternatives to econometrics in thinking about consumption and consumer
behavior. Marketing anthropology merges insights in the broader eld of cultural
anthropology with business administration and often asks how “people must deal
with other peoples’ meanings” (Hannerz 1992, 14), an approach that overlaps with
ancient studies and literary studies. Cultural inquiry in these rich elds moves
beyond identifying objects as a set of things, but rather understanding them as
a set of practices. Epithets referencing this type of research include naturalistic,
postmodern, postpositivist, and interpretivist, among others, though these labels
may obfuscate rather than illuminate (Arnould and ompson 2005). Take,
for example, the middle-aged bicyclist, who attacks the open roads and bike
trails in her local vicinity on weekends. She displays – in what Maesoli (1996)
characterizes as neo-tribalism – not just an array of brand names emblazed on the
bike, helmet, pants, jerseys, shoes, and bike pump, but also partakes in a ritual.
Whether she rides alone or in a pack, the shopping ritual of selecting gear and then
distinctively outtting herself in special (and expensive) garments conveys myriad
meanings about her lifestyle, tastes and preferences, predilections about health,
safety, and the environment, and related topics. As Emma Newcombe points out
in her essay, Camping, Climbing and Consumption: e Bean Boot, 1912 to 1945,
the process of selecting ancillary equipment can be as rewarding as the actual sport
itself, especially when a growing mass market for consumer goods replaces local
craft production and makes products widely available through mail-order catalogs.
Marx’s theory of alienation provides another path in disentangling capitalism
in the industrial and post-industrial eras. To Marx, alienation referred to the
estrangement or separation of humans from nature. He argued this eroded
individuals’ sense of themselves because of a preoccupation with purchasing
things, stu, objects, and the like. In turn, these desires to consume conate how
individuals (e.g., consumers) determine their “needs.” Marketing stimuli articially
impose a sense of needing objects, and the greater those needs are, the larger
the process of alienation. How many pairs of shoes, TV sets, cars, and pieces of
jewelry are required to survive? Henri Lefebvre (1984) contends that advertising
Vol. 48 (2016) No. 1 3
and marketing promotion gives value to objects and deceptively promises bliss
through consumption. Jan Alber’s contribution, “What Commodities Have to say
about Consumerism: e Eighteenth Century Novel e Adventures of a Black
Coat,” analyzes a garment that describes mid-eighteenth century London. It oers
an insightful satirical perspective (what could a coat possibly tell us that would
be valuable?) about how the search for happiness through vice, sex, and objects is
illusory, at best. At the dawn of the industrial age, consumers often conated the
consumption of objects with happiness and emotional wellbeing.
Myth and material culture are also intricately intertwined in the meaning
of objects, especially in ancient sculpture, drawings, and ceramics. Sacred
narratives, though, underpin most myths because they validate beliefs, rituals,
and institutions. In other words, every object has a story and when individuals
assume ownership of those items, they often ascribe meanings that might not be
the original intent of the producer or the author. For instance, rugged individualism
as portrayed by the stoic cowboy of the nineteenth-century American western
frontier is a popular iconic image in the United States. Advertising campaigns
behind cigarettes (Marlboro), blue jeans (Wrangler), beer (Coors), and automobiles
(Jeep, Land Rover) tap into that image to promote their products, or else draw a
sharp contrast to it (such as Mountain Dew did to dierentiate itself from “clean
cut” Coke) (Holt 2004).
Depictions of hearty individualism also appear in other cultures and it is from
these comparative works that we can nd common meanings about the human
condition. Consider the noble savage or principled peasant in Latin American
culture and literature (Redford 1991), or the North American Inuit braving a
menacing polar climate (LeBlanc and Register 2003) and how non-western cultures
make them universal themes in the human imagination. Consumer brands in
many countries also use colors in products, logos, and packaging that reect their
national ags; these simple colors evoke a historical thread and that can appear to
give a product longevity and imbue it with national values (Dinnie 2008; Morales
and Scarpaci 2012). Likewise, rituals include sets of behaviors and ceremonies that
have historical threads that may not always be evident. Tailgating that includes
the consumption of mood-altering substances, the wearing of certain colored
garments, and the application of body paint bears similarities to the rituals of pre-
war soldiers in many cultures (Drenton et al. 2009). Rites of passage as well are
forms of rituals that mark key life events such as birth, death, mourning, puberty,
and marriage. Karen ní Mheallaigh examines these themes as she studies the myths
behind dierent kinds of “books” (scrolls, bound books, digital readers), which
share similar features despite the fact that each time a new, disruptive technology
(Daneels 2004) emerges, it can change how readers derive meaning. Using ancient
tales written by Diogenes, Dictys of Crete and Heliodorus, the reader will see how
these objects are vibrant windows to ancient imaginations. Ní Mheallaigh traces
how Protean texts have been set apart from other objects and normal activities
because they convey respect and powerful myths. is constitutes what marketers
and consumer behaviorists might call sacred consumption (Solomon 2010, 109);
4 Material Culture
in the ancient era, most people were illiterate and so only the learned or ruling
elite were privy to the written word.
Pastiches of Images, Collections of Meaning
If lifestyles in the new millennium signal iconic clothing and global consumer
brands, few North American products resonate as broadly as the L.L. Bean Boot.
Entrepreneur and company founder Leon L. Bean recognized the functional need
to keep Maine deer-hunters’ boots dry, and his melding of elk-leather uppers with
rubber-based bottoms (from the rubber galoshes of the day) proved a winning
formula after some trial and error. Bean’s product was a hybrid between the ideal
woodsman who could live o the land by hunting, building lean-tos, using food
sources from local ora and fauna, and the urbane crowds frequenting the elite
tourist resorts. e rise of leisure time among a broadening middle class allowed
for more recreational pursuits. All of this was enhanced by eodore Roosevelt’s
praise of the wilderness hunter, the creation of national parks and forests, and the
health benets derived from engaging with nature; these were powerful antidotes
to the alienation brought on by urbanization and the disamenities of the Industrial
Revolution. Coupling those sentiments with aordable Model-T Ford travel into
the countryside proved the perfect method to get Bean’s target market into the
woods. Unwittingly, city dwellers vacationed in Maine and relied on local guides
(who often had little intimate knowledge of the “woods”) to interpret the cultural
and natural landscapes for them; to infuse it with meaning as they engaged in
the sport of hiking through nature, armed with recently purchased camping gear
and clothing to combat the elements and challenges posed by the hike. As Emma
Newcombe’s review shows, making small purchases in brick-and-mortar stores
and through catalogs proved just as enjoyable for many outdoor enthusiasts as
did the wildlife experience itself.
Early twentieth-century moral reformers paralleled the cry for engaging
with nature, as did the founding of the Boy Scouts in 1910. Collectively, then,
Newcombe shows how these forces “reveal[s] the emergence and expansion of a
very particular kind of outdoor recreation: the sport.” What might have been
referred to as young, urban professionals (YUPPIES) in the mid-Atlantic and
New England towns and cities of the early twentieth century, shifted to the
preppie-look of college campus in the U.S. and Canada in the 1980s (Smith 1996).
In both periods, the L.L. Bean marketing strategy tapped into a sentiment that
recognized the functionality of a comfortable, low-lying (10-inch high) boot, with
the lifestyle of the woodsman, the sport hiker, and the university co-ed. Such
disparate consumer proles underscore a theme in this special issue: e meaning
of objects change over space and time, and understanding their cultural constructs
serves as a window into the many physical and cultural geographies of “things.
Few objects in mid-latitude and sub-tropical climes have been as persistent in
western diet as bread and bread-making. Consuelo Manetta draws her training
in archaeology and antiquity studies to trace the evolution of this food staple in
her native Italy. Two time periods frame her work. e rst dates back to the
Vol. 48 (2016) No. 1 5
Roman Empire (mostly B.C.), which is then contrasted with the modern (e.g.,
post-eighteenth century) era. Bread’s role in ceremonies such as weddings, deaths,
births, as well as the meanings ascribed to its many shapes and recipes, make it
the perfect vehicle to trace to what extent Italian culture has ascribed dierent
meanings and salience to bread and bread-making. Bakers are heralded in Italian
culture through public art and monument, though the local and familial forms
of artisan production premised on wood-burning stoves yielded to industrial-
scale bread-making. No longer does every family have their own special dough
and branding irons (made of wood, iron, and ceramic) to dierentiate their own
breads. But food habits are indelible, and seemingly irrational habits prevail today
in Italy such as tossing cake or bread at the groom for enhancing fertility, kissing
bread before you break it (because it is “the grace of God”), never using a knife
to slice bread, nor turning bread over (as an insult to God). at the European
Union recognizes only two types of bread – Altamura and Genzano – will further
circumscribe how bread production will handle genetically modied organisms
(GMOs) in the new millennium.
Karen Ní Mheallaigh’s discussion of protean texts is a “back to the future”
journey in which she highlights the tensions that erupted from texts that were
laid down on scrolls, wooden blocks, ribbons, and other materials, to the creation
of the codex or book. She draws on three texts from the Early Roman Empire by
Diogenes, Dictys of Crete, and Heliodorus to show how the material nature of
these objects gives meaning above and beyond the texts themselves. ey appear
in tombs and are reported in folklore and myth that allowed ancient writers to
meld fact with ction and serve as openings to the ancient imagination. ese
pseudo-documentary ctions are recorded on linden-wood tablets, appear in
Cyprus-wood chests in catacombs, and on one protagonist’s (Charicleia) ribbon;
the latter allegedly tells the story of her life and is written in a foreign, Phoenician
language.
e discussion of protean texts also brings out a gendered materiality as
“books” evolve through them. Women have traditionally worked in weaving and
cloth and so it is with the ribbon in Charicleia’s story. But as the codex parchment
gradually replaces the scroll, the inking and the typesetting fall rst to skilled
trades of those charged with penmanship, and then ultimately to the variants of
the printing press from the fteenth century and the men in guilds who came to
dominate the typesetter and printing trades. Alas, in the contemporary era, book
reading evokes very distinct tactile and sensory responses. e touch, smell, and
“sensuous format” (as the author states) of the bound book object coexists with the
digital readers, which allow one to acquire books more cheaply and perhaps read
them more exibly. Digital reader brand names evoke a call back to yesteryear:
Kindle, Nook, Glow and others aim to evoke a certain materiality to invite
readers from one format to cross over to digitalization. As the medium of book
dissemination has changed, Ní Mheallaigh asks, what will become of metaphors
such as “a blank page,” “closed books,” “turning over a new leaf,” and the like? Her
historical review illustrates that although the stories about the transmissions of
6 Material Culture
Materiality over Space and Time: The Meaning of (Selected) Objects
Object & Time Introduced Original Location & Setting Original Meanings Changes in Contemporary Meanings
L.L. Bean Boot, 1880s-1945 New England, USA; retail stores and mail-orders Functional, problem-solving product to
keep deer hunters’ boots dry
Reective of wilderness hunter and
woodsmens’ rejection of consumption
Hardware for “moral reformers” and the
“boy problem” believing that juvenile
delinquents need to engage with nature
Post-1980s shift to classical preppie (and young urban
professional) fashion
Alludes to casual and recreational engagement with the
sport of sojourning in the woods
Used by both men and women for utilitarian, low
maintenance functions, mostly in urban settings
Bread & bread making, Ancient Era Italy and Ancient World; small, neighborhood and
fa mily bakeries/ovens
Produced in re-burning ovens and mostly
not sold (social stigma)
Altamura and Genzano breads prevailed
Trans-generational learning about family
dough, recipes, and branding irons
commonly employed at household level
Artisanal production and distribution
common
Produced mostly in electrical ovens at industrial scale and
mostly sold (stigma attached to free bread)
Altamura and Genzano breads still prevail and codied by
European Union standards but increasingly challenged by
GMOs (genetically-modied organisms)
Family recipes and home production rare and signify a new
lifestyle aesthetic aliated with the slow-food movement
Super- and hyper-market production and distribution prevail
Protean texts: from scrolls, to books, to
digitalization, Ancient Era
Mediterranean Basin; Phoenician, Egyptian and
Greco-Roman empires
Codied blends of history and ction that
shaped the ancient imagination
Price, production and illiteracy conne
distribution to a small elite and learned
class
Precious linden- and cyprus-wood tablets
and carefully stitched leather binding as
well as parchment roll (volumen) invoke a
textual culture and aesthetic
Gendered materiality evidenced by the
female production of cloth, weavings, and
ribbon used for texts
Scrolls and books aord varied and
nuanced touch, feel, smell, and “sensuous
format”
Fiction and non-ction genres clearly dierentiated but still
shape contemporary imagination
Price, production, and distribution vary greatly among
digital versus hard-copy formats yet remain global in reach
Digital brand names such as Nook, Kindle and Glow invoke
tactile aesthetics on mobile devices that harken back to the
bound book
Gendered materiality absent in contemporary books and
digital readers
Digital reader screens and protective covers often mimic
paper texture and provide individual tastes and preferences,
respectively
Talking objects as windows to consumerism,
mid-eighteenth century
London; the closet of a clothes store selling and renting
jackets
Talking objects and animals oer
unconventional venue for critiquing human
behavior and society
e vices of materiality are readily exposed
in trading markets, retail establishments,
brothels, and taverns
Talking objects and animals oer unconventional venue
for critiquing human behavior and society but through
more formats (e.g., Spongebob Squarepants in TV and DVD;
Dungeons and Dragons in streaming and desktop video
gaming)
e conventional vices of materiality remain in brick-and-
mortar settings by now also taking on an online presence in
the form of Internet betting (fantasy football), Bitcoins, and
pornographic and indelity websites (e.g., Ashley Madison)
Vol. 48 (2016) No. 1 7
Materiality over Space and Time: The Meaning of (Selected) Objects
Object & Time Introduced Original Location & Setting Original Meanings Changes in Contemporary Meanings
L.L. Bean Boot, 1880s-1945 New England, USA; retail stores and mail-orders Functional, problem-solving product to
keep deer hunters’ boots dry
Reective of wilderness hunter and
woodsmens’ rejection of consumption
Hardware for “moral reformers” and the
“boy problem” believing that juvenile
delinquents need to engage with nature
Post-1980s shift to classical preppie (and young urban
professional) fashion
Alludes to casual and recreational engagement with the
sport of sojourning in the woods
Used by both men and women for utilitarian, low
maintenance functions, mostly in urban settings
Bread & bread making, Ancient Era Italy and Ancient World; small, neighborhood and
fa mily bakeries/ovens
Produced in re-burning ovens and mostly
not sold (social stigma)
Altamura and Genzano breads prevailed
Trans-generational learning about family
dough, recipes, and branding irons
commonly employed at household level
Artisanal production and distribution
common
Produced mostly in electrical ovens at industrial scale and
mostly sold (stigma attached to free bread)
Altamura and Genzano breads still prevail and codied by
European Union standards but increasingly challenged by
GMOs (genetically-modied organisms)
Family recipes and home production rare and signify a new
lifestyle aesthetic aliated with the slow-food movement
Super- and hyper-market production and distribution prevail
Protean texts: from scrolls, to books, to
digitalization, Ancient Era
Mediterranean Basin; Phoenician, Egyptian and
Greco-Roman empires
Codied blends of history and ction that
shaped the ancient imagination
Price, production and illiteracy conne
distribution to a small elite and learned
class
Precious linden- and cyprus-wood tablets
and carefully stitched leather binding as
well as parchment roll (volumen) invoke a
textual culture and aesthetic
Gendered materiality evidenced by the
female production of cloth, weavings, and
ribbon used for texts
Scrolls and books aord varied and
nuanced touch, feel, smell, and “sensuous
format”
Fiction and non-ction genres clearly dierentiated but still
shape contemporary imagination
Price, production, and distribution vary greatly among
digital versus hard-copy formats yet remain global in reach
Digital brand names such as Nook, Kindle and Glow invoke
tactile aesthetics on mobile devices that harken back to the
bound book
Gendered materiality absent in contemporary books and
digital readers
Digital reader screens and protective covers often mimic
paper texture and provide individual tastes and preferences,
respectively
Talking objects as windows to consumerism,
mid-eighteenth century
London; the closet of a clothes store selling and renting
jackets
Talking objects and animals oer
unconventional venue for critiquing human
behavior and society
e vices of materiality are readily exposed
in trading markets, retail establishments,
brothels, and taverns
Talking objects and animals oer unconventional venue
for critiquing human behavior and society but through
more formats (e.g., Spongebob Squarepants in TV and DVD;
Dungeons and Dragons in streaming and desktop video
gaming)
e conventional vices of materiality remain in brick-and-
mortar settings by now also taking on an online presence in
the form of Internet betting (fantasy football), Bitcoins, and
pornographic and indelity websites (e.g., Ashley Madison)
8 Material Culture
texts change through time, textual ctions will most likely continue to be dynamic
cultural objects. Readers today may not adorn their books with knobs, trim the
crimpled corners of old pages, or worry about the drying of leather bound volumes,
but an entire industry of iPad, Nook, Kindle, Glow, and mini-iPad covers give
users a tactile and personalized touch (colors, shapes, materials, patterns, logos,
names, designs) to these devices in ways not unlike the ancient scroll or book.
e nal case in this special issue draws on the expertise of German scholar
Jan Alber whose expertise in English literature oers an intriguing look at
consumption and material greed in the eighteenth century that presaged Karl
Marx’s writing about commodity fetishism (i.e., when objects carry more meaning
than human interaction) by a century or more. Alber analyzes a sub-genre of
ction that was quite popular in England in the 1700s, in which objects talk
and become the narrators of ctive accounts. It was common in the day to have
animals and inanimate objects such as coins, watches, clothing, hats and other
“weird phenomena” (in Alber’s parlance) appear in writings and give rst-person
accounts of individuals and, indirectly, of society. ese objects serve as chimeras
and provide a satirical lens that points out how humans tend to overemphasize the
value of material goods. In the case at hand, Alber draws on a story in which two
coats – White (newer) and Sable (older and wiser) share a closet in a shop where
they are rented out to Londoners. As the coats are re-used and re-purposed by
dierent owners, the garments “comment” on English society from the vantage
point of “observing” commerce: a coee house near the London Stock Exchange;
Cheapside, in London’s retail district; Chancey Lane, where booksellers cluster;
Southwork, known for its many brothels and seedy underworld; and a tavern in
Strand. Using double entendres, the tales of the black coat (Sable) show that objects
become the last refuse of morality, and where “threads blush at the indignity” of
human avarice, gluttony, and waste. Like all good stories, these objects remind us
that humanness can triumph over material gain if we are inclined to step back,
pause, and reect about the meaning of objects.
e multimethod essays and themes that follow are summarized in Table 1.
ey show that the consumption of desire-induced symbols, bread, or literary
elements is an ancient practice in which each developed its own marketplace
culture. Objects’ meanings have been negotiated and represented in unique
settings, but they are far from descriptive and idiographic cases. Instead, they reveal
a consumer culture of object owners/users and book readers shaped by a thick
network of global extensions. What does vary, though, is the dierent approaches
the authors take to understand the meaning of these objects. Whether they are
part of a broader physical landscape (bakeries, tombstones, burial sites) or mental
constructs created by ction (talking coats), the signs or symbols conveyed form
part of a semiotic construct that allow us to make sense – rightly or wrongly – of
objects. Hopefully, we can begin to reconceptualize them in new ways.
Vol. 48 (2016) No. 1 9
Acknowledgements
Partial nancial support for this research was provided by Aarhus Institute of
Advanced Study, COFUND, Aarhus University, Denmark. Special thanks to
Sara Beth Keough and anonymous reviewers for their comments on a previous
version of this essay. All omissions and errors, though, are mine alone.
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... Scholars from various fields make sense of societies over time through the study of everyday objects and artifacts Material culture includes the things that people make, purchase, and possess, and is of great interest to social scientists, as it provides a glimpse into how people moved over spaces in specific periods of time (Berger 2016) Material culture has attracted attention from scholarly fields that include cultural anthropology, marketing, semiotics, and human geography, focusing on how objects reflect both individual and societal images (Scarpaci 2016) Material culture studies incorporate a broad and diverse range of interests, providing interdisciplinary vantage points into the functions and symbolisms of objects It is no longer limited to the studies done by archaeologists and anthropologists, but has expanded to include most of the social sciences and its subdisciplines As anthropologists Timothy Carroll and Aaron Parkhurst said: "Material is inherently social, and materiality is the effects -specifically the social impact -of that material" (2019, 13) ...
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How is COVID-19 experienced differently across regions, cultures, and scales? Cognizant of the multiplicities in the experience of the pandemic worldwide, our paper focuses on the intersection of epidemiology, governance, structural violence, and cultural response to COVID-19 in the Philippines. Equal attention is devoted to various pandemic-related materialities (facemasks and face shields) and non-pharmaceutical interventions which show a mismatch in health protocols among the health-seeking behavior of the population. For this paper, we define material culture as the various materialities engendered by the global response to COVID-19. Our paper discusses unequal geographies where state-imposed directives that demand strict compliance towards COVID-19 highlight class inequalities, access, and how health and sickness are differently viewed and practiced by Filipinos. Finally, the storying of our individual pandemic encounters and experiences from everyday life hope to provide ground-truthing as we reflect on our embodied ecologies with the virus.
... Objects are important in the study of human history because they provide a solid foundation for ideas and can be used to corroborate them (UNESCO, 2017). According to Scarpaci (2016), these artifacts are the foundations of a tangible culture that demonstrates not only what we like, dislike, and desire, but also serves as portals to past perceptions and behaviors. Another question arises as a result of this statement. ...
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This ethnographic study aimed to assess the facts and reasons for ethnocide on the part of the participants. It results from but is not limited to acculturation, assimilation, development, colonial mentality, and geography. The study found that while a significant number of participants have a good understanding of their material culture, their perception of how it is practiced is con�cerning. Their knowledge of their intangible culture is still sufficient for their continued creativity and existence, and such practice must be considered. Overall, the participants' practice is torn between being kept and discarded. The participant's perception of what causes ethnocide is domi�nated by a preference for a modern lifestyle, inability to speak the native dialect, non-speaking of the native dialect, and ethnic culture is not taught in-home or school. The majority of participants believe that their ethnic culture should be modified, preserved, or not practiced, particularly in terms of beliefs and practices. Most of the participants strongly agree on the importance of pre�serving ethnic culture for identity and solidarity.
... For instance, the function of objects can be a mirror that reflects both individual and social image. In other words, the study of material culture is useful to help us comprehend cultures and societies (Scarpaci, 2016). ...
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This research discusses the elements of material culture in the literary text of Jakka Dofuni Umi no Kioku no Monogatari by Tsushima Yuko in presenting historical memories of the Ainu as one of the indigenous people in Japan. Material culture is a study carried out through objects (artefacts) to see social markers, historical traces, social knowledge, and the identity of a particular nation or society. This research aims to reveal the history and identity of the Ainu as shown through material cultural objects and how the characters in the text interpret these objects. Qualitative approaches and narrative structures as research methods are used to analyze this literary text. Besides, memory theory is also used to reveal collective memories related to Ainu history and identity. The results show that the Jakka Dofuni museum with various artefacts presents historical memory and Ainu identity through the narrator's discussion and figures in narratives text. The spirit consolation monument (ireihi), which was built in the area of the Jakka Dofuni museum, is an object of memory of remembrance for local people from the Ainu and Uilta tribes who were victims of war during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1945). The collection of cultural artefacts and the life history of Gendanu as the owner of the museum with the identity problems he experienced can be interpreted as a form of markers that confirm Ainu's identity.
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