The Oxford Diaries: (7) 4 Material Culture Books I Love

OxfordDiariesAccording to GoodReads, I am 5 books behind schedule. According to GoodReads, I am pretty much a reading failure. But what I don’t include in my GR is all of the articles, books and stuff I have to read on a daily basis for grad school. If I included those, I’d have busted through my 50 book goal by the end of January.

On average, I have to read 2 to 3 books and around 5 to 8 articles a week for tutorials, lectures, essays and graded assignments. I have a big assignment coming out soon so I recently went on a borrowing spree and lugged 15 books home. These aren’t tiny books by the way, they’re like those crappy huge textbooks you’d get in 101 classes for undergrad.

So I’ve decided to share a selection of the books I love with you. It isn’t highly relevant for readers, as how many of you all study/love/like anthropology, visual culture, museum studies and material culture studies? Oh well, this is my daily life now, and I want to share it (because I can! Pah!)

4 Material Culture Books I Love:

Handbook of Material Culture edited by Chris Tilley and Webb Keane

This is an excellent starter read into the material culture world. There are a number of handbooks out there, but I’ve enjoyed this the most as it is most cultural and anthropological rather than archaeological (which I like but shun, too much science for me). For the love of bookish gods though, do not buy this thing, it’s stupid expensive. Borrow it if you can. Yes.

Summary: The study of material culture is concerned with the relationship between persons and things in the past and in the present, in urban and industrialized and in small-scale societies across the globe. The Handbook of Material Culture provides a critical survey of the theories, concepts, intellectual debates, substantive domains and traditions of study characterizing the analysis of things. It is cutting-edge: rather than simply reviewing the field as it currently exists. It also attempts to chart the future: the manner in which material culture studies may be extended and developed.

The Textile Reader edited by Jessica Hemmings

I have just recently discovered this beauty and don’t know how the hell the Bodleian SOLO system missed this for me. Where was this when I was writing my PhD proposals (a future post will come on that soon)? Where the hell was this when I was trying to convince my supervisor that a study of textile cultures and manufacturing was a legit anthropological and intellectual field of enquiry (most of my arguments for my supervisor were along the lines of ‘It’s cool’ and ‘I love fabric!’).

Summary: The Textile Reader is the first anthology to address textiles as a distinctive area of cultural practice and a developing field of scholarly research. Revealing the full diversity of approaches to the study of textiles, The Textile Reader introduces students to the theoretical frameworks essential to the exploration of the textile from both a critical and a creative perspective.

Unpacking Culture edited by Ruth Phillips and Christopher Steiner

I’m going to also write more about this book in a future post but generally speaking, I have to write a 5000 word essay on whether ‘authenticity‘ is negotiable, and by which I will say in 5000 words: Yes and this book will help me do it. I heart Ruth Phillips!

Summary: Tourist art production is a global phenomenon and is increasingly recognized as an important and authentic expression of indigenous visual traditions. These thoughtful, engaging essays give a comparative perspective on the history, character, and impact of tourist art in colonized societies in three areas of the world: Africa, Oceania, and North America. Ranging broadly historically and geographically, Unpacking Culture is the first collection to bring together substantial case studies on this topic from around the world.

The Comfort of Things by Daniel Miller

Daniel Miller is like a rock store in the material culture community and I’ve always loved his work. The Comfort of THings was one of the first material culture studies books I read during my undergrad and it helped me cement my interests completely. It’s easy to read and more Popular NonFiction than academic but still totally worth it for everyone.

Summary: What do we know about ordinary people in our towns and cities, about what really matters to them and how they organize their lives today? This book visits an ordinary street and looks into thirty households. It reveals the aspirations and frustrations, the tragedies and accomplishments that are played out behind the doors. It focuses on the things that matter to these people, which quite often turn out to be material things – their house, the dog, their music, the Christmas decorations. These are the means by which they express who they have become, and relationships to objects turn out to be central to their relationships with other people – children, lovers, brothers and friends.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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6 Responses to The Oxford Diaries: (7) 4 Material Culture Books I Love

  1. Pingback: The Oxford Diaries: (7) 4 Digital Anthropology Books | Bitches With Books

  2. Nicole says:

    Oh I like that you include these!! I tend to be lazy on following blog feeds so I just wait ’til I see you post a BWB thing on twitter, but today I decided to scroll down BWB because I was actually going to see if you had anything on the kind of material you have to consume for your course! I noticed the number of academic books in your GR went up and it made me think to ask you about writing a quick thing on a few of them because they seem interesting. This is a messy comment because I’m hungry as hell, but I just like that you included some info on the non-fiction texts you’re reading too.

    • Claire (BWB) says:

      I’m going to be doing this some more I think, add the books from classes because there might be some others find interesting. The Japanese one was cool because it discussed a TOTALLY different notion of authenticity, yinno?

      • Nicole says:

        Well keep ’em coming ’cause I’m always spyin’ what you’re readin’! 😉
        And I’ve been reading more things on Japanese culture recently (though I have no idea why…maybe it was Haruki Murakami who brought it all on… Probably).

  3. Tara says:

    YEAH GRAD SCHOOL BOOKS! I actually just wrote a post wrapping up the books I read this semester in grad school, too. I only read 10 total, though…nothing close to 2-3 a week! Goodness! Though I guess do check tons out from the library and skim them, but it’s not quite the same. And I do include any book I read cover to cover in my Goodreads challenge. How many more weeks are left in the semester? I’ve got 2.

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