Essay about Daniel Miller's Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter

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In the introduction to Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, Daniel Miller describes the book as part of the second stage of the development of material culture studies. The first stage was the recognition by writers such as Appadurai and Bourdieu as well as Miller that material culture is important and worthy of study. The second stage is the argument made in this book: that it is crucial to focus on "the diversity of material worlds" without reducing these material worlds to symbols for "real" social processes nor cloistering them in sub-studies of like objects. That things matter has already been ascertained; this books intends to investigate "why some things matter" more than others and in particular contexts. Miller claims a…show more content…
Here, by contrast, through dwelling upon the more mundane sensual and material qualities of the object, we are able to unpick the more subtle connections with cultural lives and values that are objectified through these forms, in part, because of the particular qualities they possess. (9) I find particularly important in this approach the stress on the sensual qualities of the objects under study: the emotions elicited by the way the sound of a radio fills a space, the color of a carpet or lawn, the texture and weight of a piece of paper in the hand, the shape of a bowler hat. If we are truly to understand people’s involvement with and decision-making regarding things, it may be through investigating these bodily experiences, elusive because they are naturalized, but crucial elements in the formation of likes and dislikes, nostalgia, memory, and attraction. The focus on the diversity and specificity of material objects and their significance is suggested by the book’s subtitle: Why Some Things Matter. Miller says that the word "matter" was consciously chosen to evoke the sentimental associations that the subjects of study might have with the objects in their lives; it puts the stress on emic not etic perspectives. Miller suggests further that this stress on the emic parallels a shift in attention from processes of production to those of consumption, a recognition that identities are often constructed in relation to acts of consumption.
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