Material culture

  • Created by: maya
  • Created on: 29-05-17 15:10

material culture

mobilties, representation, culture - try to think of all the key concept holistically 


Material culture
Consumption Mobilities
Representation (emotion and embodiment)

I will…

Try and make it interesting and accessible Aim to provide a signpost for your reading
Build your confidence in your ability to ‘read’ Geography, help develop your critical thinking skills
Take your feedback seriously

My aim: to get you thinking like a Geographer and asking interesting questions! - apply concepts to everyday life

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today we will...

think about and answer questions yourself- concepts 

Look at what ‘culture’ means and how Geographers have used it
Focus on material culture (“stuff” in Geography)

Explore 4 main approaches to material culture within Geography: How cultures make things How things make cultures How things move The role of things in everyday life (or “how things can make stuff happen”)

material culture- why is stuff important to geographers, how things make cultures and how things- material objects- can actually have efects in the world.

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Given you a feel for the many and varied issues that you can explore within cultural geography}
And, in relation to material culture… Helped you understand how and why ‘stuff’ is interesting and relevant for Geographers. You will be able to use ‘stuff’ to ask important geographical questions about the world around you. geographical questions about the wider world - culture within geography  What does ‘culture’ mean to you? Which words or images come to mind? 
traditions, practices, indigenous people, beliefs  think about multiculturalism, different groups around the world being together in one place. arts, museums being cultured- particular traditions associated with different groups - generally when geographers talk about culture they talk about it being cultured  culture as 'being cultured' - geographies of the performing arts- how are cities affected 

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culture in geography

how race gets represented in museums
music of place- how this affects particular cities and cultures 
three readings... 

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culture as cultivation

broader sense - ways in which humans impact on their environment 

Carl Sauer- where agriculture came from and how different methods spread around the world

Michael Hardman - guerrilla gardening - growing in cities- changing places

Gerard Jennings- how buildings are expressed in environments.

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culture as being cultured


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Culture in Geography

Culture as a way of life 
various examples - food cultures, tourist cultures, cultures of hobbyists- dave horton sociologist in geography - cycling issues
Deborah Johnson- Norwegian folk cultures- and how museums represent and show past cultures. three broad themes.

very broadly against those three areas it boils down to these three themes.

Material interactions with the world Imagination, meaning and the arts- emotional geographies 
Difference and identity and today we're going to look at the top one - stuff, all of this will be considered in the five lectures

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Starting point: material culture

or the 'role of stuff in Geography- before we looked at culture more broadly now we're looking at material culture 

1.How cultures make things 2.How things make cultures 3.How things move 4.The role of things in everyday life (or “how things can make stuff happen”) going to look at these four approaches now.  
Crany 2014- core textbook

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1. How cultures make things

mapping the spread of  objects- idea is that tracing objects allows us to trace the spread of cultures. where particular cultures have influenced and spread throughout the world 
for example: Architecture/Styles of building originally from Finland then travelled to North America- very distinctive type of building that cropped up in the US because people from Finland moved there.

Food and how food travels throughout the world- McDonaldization globalisation - particular styles of cuisine which originally originated from one part of the world- Birmingham being famous for its curries- how people moved into here- 

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Mapping the spread of objects

So in some ways... tracing objects allows us to trace the spread of cultures- parents carrying their children in slings- plenty of cultures in the world did this- but in the UK there was a long time when people went away from that. there is a resurgence in the UK of carrying your babies -  in Lancaster a lot of people will carry their babies in slings, but in other places hardly anyone will carry their babies in slings- where you see the slings is where baby sling groups and sling libraries have set up e.g. Sheffield. 

this is an example of how you can look at objects an dwhere they go to see where cultures have spread e.g. parent cultures. 

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Mapping the spread of objects

Problems with this approach…

Cultures aren’t natural/static (see social geog lectures on identity in the next block)

- cultures also shift and change, can't stay exactly the same in other parts of the world

Just as cultures make things, so things also make cultures it's not a straightforward process 

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2. How things make cultures

the symbolic value of things- things have symbolic value 

Things have a key role to play in making individual and group identities- in that sense key role to play

They have contested meanings that have to be unpicked - so geographers taking this approach argue that you have to look at what thins mean and not just their symbolic value  e.g. if you aren't part of sling librariers and these groups you probably wouldn't carry your baby on a sling.  different brands within that world, things have different symbollic value e.g. designer slings

Objects need to be ‘read’ for their symbolic value, not just mapped for some people the spread of McDonald's and hamburgers is great and liberating for some people e.g. Jose Bove this is a negative thing, McDonald's destroys local customs and food culture- putting local places out of businesses. this is one example how food culture such as mcDonald's can have contest meanings depending on where you come from and the position you take. 

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3. How things move

" The social Life of Things" (Appadurai 1988) 

Objects move through a range of social contexts

Their meanings and material properties can change along the way

Paying attention to the ‘biographies’ of things and the people and places they engage with can help us understand the world

Geographer most associated with this is Appadurai - how different objects travel and move through a range of different social contexts- ow their meanings and social contexts can change.

this inspires geographers to look at the biographies of things- what changes happen  in the middle- both the people themselves and the things they engage with.

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Things and their social lives

Exploring the biographies and geographies of things For example: Work on commodity chains and ethical consumption, reconnecting producers and consumers- geographers have done a lot of work on this ^  so in the lecture on consumption this concept is explored more-  environmental and social cost of rising meat consumption in the world- trace the meat chain back and look at what is going on in those food chains another example is the ivory trade- this approach in action

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Things and their social lives

Exploring the biographies and geographies of things For example: Work on the power relations involved when things move

controversy in the sling world about this design based on an original maroi design- rebranded it as their own and made money
Debates around ‘cultural appropriation’ <- put a price tag on another culture and make it your own for profit- when one culture is a dominant economic position takes ideas from other cultures and sells it for their own benefit. 

The controversy over Oscha Slings RapoitiaPapango wrap:

However, also important to explore instances of ‘indigenization- global product or brand that appears generic, make these things unique to your own situation  there are power relations and inequalities that happen - geographers look at the power dynamics that happen when stuff moves. 

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The role of things in everyday life (or “how thing

The role of things in everyday life (or “how things can make stuff happen”)

So.. things and their use value

Things don’t just have a social, symbolic value – they have a use value too
-what do things actually do, their function most things have a practical use value

How do people use things to remake places and spaces around them?
- souvenirs, and what happens when people do that 

For example:

Work looking at everyday practices such as cooking and washing (social practice theory - we’ll explore this more in the next lecture) microwaves, washing machines, how people interact with them- how this affects the environment, life in the home and rhythms in the domestic life- how this manifests across different cultures.

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Feeling at home after flooding

looking at Hull floods - 2007,

8000 homes affected - worked intensively with a group of residents, had them keeping diaries of the effects on their lives

what happened to their house after the flooding- the worst thing was what happened afterwards, 

Hull sewage water- anything touched by water had to be thrown out -even the plaster was gone from the homes, fireplace- this is really dsruptive a lot of residents found this heartbreaking whe the stuff that was part of their lives, part of them was gone. had to get chucked out because it got touched by floodwater.

floods and things the role they play in people's lives is important. 

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when home becomes a house- flooding case study

elderly lady had her home repaired yet all of the things that got thrown out was with new modern stuff- after her time- real trauma- started to experience memory loss. how stuffhas an impact- how it relates to the space around you. how when stuff changes it can affect your life. 

Every single thing in her life has changed . . . maybe somebody who was in their 30s or their 40s, it’s a case of “yes it’s been horrendous but we’ve got new things now, well let’s just start a new life.” But when you are 76—she’s 77 this year—she got new things and she has no idea—she was only comfortable in her own home because she was comfortable with turning the TV on, the microwave, the oven—she knew in her head. She could control her memory loss because everything was where it had always been, it’s not a new thing. Whereas now she cannot turn the TV on and we’ll have her ringing up saying, “I don’t know which remote to press . . . I can’t remember which drawers, where do I put these?” . . . The only thing that hasn’t changed is her bedroom, so you’ll often find her living in her bedroom because she feels comfortable and safe in there. Her house has gone

from being quite old-fashioned but how she really loved it, to now being a plastered wall,cream plaster, modern TV, modern cabinets, because you couldn’t replace what she had,and she hates    

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reading points

When a "home" becomes a "house": care and caring in the flood recovery process.
Sims, R., Medd, W., Mort, M., Twigger-Ross, C. 08/2009 In: Space and Culture. 12, 3, p. 303-316. 14 p.

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Introducing Actor Network Theory

Bruno Latour, Michel Callon & John Law Core emphasis is the capacity of non-human objects to act (have agency) in the world. “Scripting” – for example the speed bump and car seat belt - how different objects act in the world
- speed bump - who determines how fast people drive? this is an object that changes what people do- speed bump forces you to slow down. 
car seat belt- compulsory to wear a seatbelt in the car- modern cars have an alarm if your seatbelt is not clipped in an object is physically compelling you to obey the law.  Object literally changing the way in which you inteact with places and spaces.
theory and concept used a lot by geographers recently - helpful tool for thinking about things and their use value - what distinguishes it, is that it says inanimate things have power to act in the world.

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Energy demand reduction

energy consumption in the workplace, how you can reduce it

Is reducing energy consumption the responsibility of the individual? people should turn their lights off, radiators off, there are some things we can do What about the role played by infrastructures and material objects? a lot of this is controlled by technology- level of insulation of the building, thermostat humans giving control over to an object  basically looking at whose responsibility it is to reduce energy consumption- 

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today we have...

Focused on material culture (“stuff” in Geography)

Explored 4 main approaches to material culture within Geography:
How cultures make things
How things make cultures
How things move
The role of things in everyday life (or “how things can make stuff happen”)


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My goal for today…

Given you a feel for the many and varied issues that you can explore within cultural geography

And, in relation to material culture…

Helped you understand how and why ‘stuff’ is interesting and relevant for Geographers.

You will be able to use ‘stuff’ to ask important geographical questions about the world around you.

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Let’s test this out…

What sorts of interesting Geographical questions could you ask about…

A smartphone? 

how people use smartphones to construct their identities - certain brands

inequalities and injustices that produced in the construction and destruction of a mobile phone 

how smartphones change the way people interact with place- PokeMon Go 

playing music changes your experience of a place as you move through it


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geographical questions

How do smartphone ownership rates differ across the world? How do people use their smart phones to construct their identities? What kinds of inequalities are produced in the construction and disposal of smartphones? How do smartphones change the way in which people interact with place? or trainers, milk etc 

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Akrich (1992) the de-scription of technical object

  • Form part of long chain- people, productd, tools, money etc
  • Technical content devices not focused on pic- hazy context
  • even the most mundane objectd is a product = set of diverse forces
  •  objects geography of responsibility- 'moral judgement responsibility', by designer to determine function and durability
  •  Designers define actors- specific interests/competence 
  •  Assume economy, technology, morality evolve e.g. selfie stick
  • Filmscript- object defines roles and relationships actor meant to have
  • Our relationships real world mediated by technical objects
  •  Circumstances when object excluded- not liked
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Commodity cultures: The traffic in things

  • Previous studies treat commodification 'dirty word'
  • Implying once cultures commodified- inevitably devalued- commodification of Christmas
  • Marx 'commodity fetishism' -> Capitaisms forms exchange
  • Thatcher 'free market' & 'consumer choice'- health care & education previously uncommodified being affect QUESTIONS OF ETHICS
  • 'Commodity racism' association white = purity, black = dirty/pollution 
  • Commodification of black music -> provided voice oppressed groups of people
  • Geographical culture of commodity understanding- should involve both exploration of physical movements and goods (traffic in things) AND appreciation commodification cultural difference
  • Transcending unhelpful distinction 'the cultural' & 'the economic 
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Potts 2012 Dark tourism and Kitshification 9/11

Kitshification memeory & visitors 'tourists of history'

Dark tourism - shift motivation visit places of disaster/death

9/11 teddybears, snowglobes- material culture - souvenirs, money these objects highly regarded 

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Peters 2011

Enchantment souvenirs gain elevated position in the home

Status- trophy- I went here

Banal object special connection with space

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Intro the stuff of geography Cloke et al 2014

Objects and materials - aka stuff

material culture designation/definition emohasises role in cultural processes of making distinctive ways of life and giving meaning to the world, its places & people. 

material culture- rather than being reflections of underlying social worlds they in fact help to make our social worlds (Miller, 2010) 

'cultures of consumption' how we use things made by others

'cultures of making' how we craft things by working with objects and materials 

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How culture makes things- Cloke et al 2014

1.How cultures make things  - The stuff of cultural inscription 
people shape landscapes - culturally distinctive forms

examples historical geography of European settlement and pioneering in North America. 
imprint of the cultural influences apparent in any place 

Material forms = unwitting imprint/inscription of distinctive cultrues & people.

Tracing out spatial distribution of material forms = can map geographies of cultures, in terms of their origins, their patterns of diffusion and their regionalisation.

long-established approach - see things as establishment of a culture on the landscape

reading these material inscriptions allows is tp map out the spatial origns, diffusions and extents of different cultures. 

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2.How things make cultures

2.How things make cultures - The stuff of cultural reproduction
'my' VW campervan is a fragment of material culture that pays a role in the fashioning of my cultural identity.

the meanings and aesthetic of things are caught up in cultural politics- in disagreeements and struggles- same thing may not be appreciated the same way by different people. 

Our judgements of things are not pure but impicated in processes of social distinction (Bourdieu, 1984)

 distinction, social force assigns different values upon different people within a given society.  Cultural groups dont just exist, have to be produced&reproduced- material culture is a mean through which this (Re)production can take place.

(re)prodction of cultural groups implicated in various forms cultural politics, so is material culture
Things make up material culture play role, cultural (re)production through meanings & aethetics
Thus should interpret material culture more than just map them- need to tease out their multiple  contested meanings and evaluations 


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3.How things move (Cloke et al 2014)

 3.How things move  The stuff of practice

VW campervan not just symbolic value also practical use

interested in how practical relations are involved in the production & consumption of space

Argument:: to consume is to do far more than simply purchase things- it is to use them. 

How commercial goods are 'domesticated' through their consumption, opening up a wider range of ???s about how we live with things.

Elizabeth Shove - domestic consumption involves nto only having but doing, looking at how new products&materials have co-evolved with changing forms of domestic life (Shove et al, 2007)

How do people use personal stereos and with what effects on urban space?
Bull pursues this in iPod culture & urban experience' (BULLL 2007)
- they are technologies for remaking our surroundings and our embodied perceptions of them. 

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How things move summary

we relate to material culture not only through appreciating their symbolic meanings BUT also through putting them to use. 

To understand geographies of material culture we need to study how objects are used, in particular how they are used to 'inhabit' or re-fashion places and spaces.

Research on domestic space & urban public space has been pioneering in this regard.

The stuff of material culture is diverse and characterised by differing material + technological qualities. These qualities important in shaping the geographical uses to which objects are put and the kind of geographies their use produces. 

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4. The role of things in everyday llife

4.The role of things in everyday life (or “how things can make stuff happen”) 
The stuff of cultural traffic

Appadurai particular concern following thigs in motion - methodology cast new light:
on various social contexts through which they have moved.

Related work seeking to 'follow things' and reconnect the producers and consumers of material commodities.

Accounts of the complicated lives of things that become second-hand

How objects end their lives, become rubbish  and the geographical consequences this produces.

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4. The role of things in everyday llife

EXAMPLE: Italian motor scooter
Motor transport removed from masculine realm of mechnical competence and brute force

Translated into feminine words of style, fashion & domestic utensils.
In turn, those femine words were given new geographies. 

The confinement of home & the passivity of being on display transformed into ideologies of active mobility and freedom. 

broader insights of this story:
things move around and inhabit multiple cultural contexts during their lives.
How much do people encountering  a thing in one context know about its life in other contexts?
What role do imaginative geographies of where things come from 'Italnicity' play in our encounters with objects?
What role do material culture play in wider imaginative geographies? 

What are the consequences when a thing travels cross-culturally? 
cultural appropiation?

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4. The role of things in everyday life summary

Things travel, moving through space and time. In these travels, the meanings and material nature of 'things' can change. Things themselves therefore have complex cultural geographies.

Cultural geographers have considered the understandings and knowledges that people have of where things come from as forms  of 'imaginative geographies'.

Cultural Geographers have also examined the power relations of cross-cultural movements of things. Attention been paid to problems of cultural 'appropriation' by dominant groups. 
However, consideration also been given to indigenization and the use of global things in apparently subordinate local cultures. disposable bags don't have a made in label yet are made all over the world, started with a woman taking a bag from the store and dumping it

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