Anthropology of Materiality

Term: Fall 2008

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6750

Arjun Appadurai and Peter van der Veer The subject of materiality in anthropology invites us to revisit debates about the social life of things, the tensions between gift and commodity, the traffic between humans and non-humans, and the relationship of human designs to the design of humanity. These debates sometimes raise questions about representation, as in modern art, or about agency, as in Protestantism, or take the shape of an opposition between materialism and spirituality, fueled by anxieties about consumption and consumerism. While these concerns have a long genealogy in a variety of traditions across the globe, contemporary globalization forces us to place them in new ethical, political and cultural contexts. This graduate seminar will involve the close reading of classical and more recent anthropological texts and will require students to collaborate in reports and class discussions with an eye to building bridges between longstanding debates about the anthropology of objects with more recent topics in the anthropology of science, technology and agency.

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