Material Culture and Consumption

(Anthropology 58200)

 

The Material Culture and Consumption seminar is designed to explore a series of current major research frontiers in the understanding of material culture and the practice of consumption.  This domain of inquiry consti­tutes an exciting new convergence of interests among the fields of archaeology, cultural anthropology, history, and sociol­ogy; hence, the seminar seeks to explore the intersection of novel theoretical developments and empirical research among all these fields.

 

The theme for this year's seminar is "Embodied Material Culture": that is, objects that are produced specifically for consumption by ingestion into the human body.  After a brief survey of some general foundational texts in the material culture and consumption literature, readings and discussion will center around works that grapple with the social and cultural understanding of food, alcohol, and drugs in ancient and modern contexts.  Their close association with the body and the senses, as well as their nutritive and psychoactive proper­ties, make these forms of material culture an especially salient, symbolically charged form of "social fact" and make the study of their consumption a particularly revealing key to social relations, cultural concepts, and articulations of the domestic and political economies. 

 

For pragmatic reasons, the seminar will limit itself to Anglophone literature, although students should be aware that a good deal of the most important work in this field is (and has been) done by French scholars and much of it is not available in translation.  Some key French works will be found included among the list of additional suggested readings at the end of the syllabus.