Materials play a central role in society. Beyond the physical and chemical properties of materials, their cultural properties have often been overlooked in anthropological studies: finished products have been perceived as ‘social’ yet the materials which comprise them are considered ‘raw’ or natural’. The Social Life of Materials proposes a new perspective in this interdisciplinary field. Diverting attention from the consumption of objects, the book looks towards the properties of materials and how these exist through many transformations in a variety of cultural contexts.Human societies have always worked with materials. However, the customs and traditions surrounding this differ according to the place, the time and the material itself. Whether or not the material is man-made, materials are defined by social intervention. Today, these constitute one of the most exciting areas of global scientific research and innovation, harboring the potential to act as key vehicles of change in the world. But this ‘materials revolution’ has complex social implications. Smart materials are designed to anticipate our actions and needs, yet we are increasingly unable to apprehend the composite materials which comprise new products.Bringing together ethnographic studies of cultures from around the world, this collection explores the significance of materials by moving beyond questions of what may be created from them. Instead, the text argues that the materials themselves represent a shifting ground around which relationships, identities and powers are constantly formed and dissolved in the act of making and remaking.
Table of Contents
PrefacePart I: Introduction1. To Live in a Materials WorldAdam Drazin, University College London, UKPart II: On Materials Innovation2. What's in a Plant Leaf? A Case Study of Materials Innovation in New ZealandGraeme Were, University of Queensland, Australia3. Pharmaceutical Matters: The Invention of Informed Materials Andrew Barry, Oxford University, UK4. Towards Designing New Sensoaesthetic Materials: The Role of Materials LibrariesMark Miodownik, University College London, UK5. The Science of Sensory Evaluation: An Ethnographic CritiqueDavid Howes, Concordia University, CanadaPart III: From Substance to Form6. Wild Silk Indigo Wrappers of Dogon of Mali: An Ethnography of Materials Efficacy and DesignLaurence Douny, University College London, UK7. Fashioning Plastic: Changing Materials in DesignTom Fisher, University of Nottingham, UK8. Dressing for God: Cloth as Material of Religious Subjectivity in a Hindu Group Urmila Mohan, University College London, UKPart IV: The Subversion of Form by Substance9. Introducing Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold: An Attempt to Reconfigure the Social Identity of a SubstancePeter Oakley, Royal College of Art, UK10. Subversive Plasticity: Materials' Histories and Cultural Categories in the PhilippinesDeirdre McKay, Keele University, UK11. Diamonds, Machines and Colors: Moving Materials in Ritual ExchangeFilipe Calvao, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, SwitzerlandPart V: Ecologies of Materials' Social Lives12. Sustainability and the Co-constitution of Substances and SubjectsSarah Wilkes, University College London, UK13. The Peony and the Rose: Social Change and Fragrance Marketing in China’s Bath MarketChan Chow Wah, independent scholar, Singapore14. The Woollen Blanket and its Imagined Values: Material Transformations of Woollen Blankets in Contemporary ARtFiona P. McDonald, University College London, UKThe Implications of Materials Innovation and Disposal15. Materials: The Story of UseSusanne Küchler, University College London, UKIndex
Adam Drazin lectures in the Department of Anthropology at University College London, UK, where he coordinates the MA in Materials, Anthropology and Design. Susanne Küchler is Professor in Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London, UK.