Thinking Through Things

Module code: AR1012

This module challenges the stereotype of archaeology as the study of ancient, dusty and rather irrelevant things in the past. Instead, we turn our archaeological gaze on material culture in our lives more widely, whether at home, work, study, or in temples dedicated to stuff (i.e. museums!). We will bring things closer by scrutinising the material worlds we inhabit and create, and our relationships with the objects, technologies, and possessions in the world around us. Through hands-on workshops and external visits we will explore the roles of things in the background and foreground, things we notice, ignore, display, hide, chuck away. Things others display, hide, chuck away. Things we use to communicate our projects, selves, belonging, and aspirations.

The anthropologist Danny Miller, whose book we will read bits from throughout the module, states that the closer our relationship with objects, the closer our relationships with people. What does this mean? And can a focus on things in our own lives and society help us understand things in the past better? Or indeed, can archaeological methods of assigning meaning, sorting, and categorising give us greater insight into our relationships with things now? And is any of this relevant for future things and the future of archaeology?

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