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What Objects Mean : An Introduction to Material Culture



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Left Coast Pr
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Objects, artifacts, and other forms of material culture are studied in many different parts of the university. Yet, to date, there has been no introductory book that allows students to understand the basic ways in which material culture can be studied. Arthur Asa Berger, author of an array of texts in communication, popular culture, and social theory, provides a brief, user-friendly guide for students who want to learn what objects can mean. He takes the reader through half a dozen theoretical models that are commonly used to understand objects. He then describes and analyzes fifteen objects, showing how they demonstrate ideas like authenticity, globalization, and identity. Finally, Berger provides a series of exercises to allow students to do their own analyses of objects in their environment. Brief and inexpensive enough to be included as a component in courses ranging from anthropology to art history, pop culture and psychology, Berger’s introductory guide to material culture will be of use to many instructors and their students.

Author Biography

Arthur Asa Berger is professor emeritus in the Department of Broadcast Communication Arts at San Francisco State University. He is author of 60 books on media, popular culture, visual culture, and writing. He has written textbooks, scholarly works, practical manuals and a series of teaching novels for classroom use.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 9
Theoretical Approaches to Material Culturep. 13
Making Sense of Material Culturep. 14
Defining Material Culturep. 16
"The Blue Carbuncle" as a Model for the Study of Material Culturep. 17
On the Nature of Theoryp. 21
Nietzsche and Perspectivismp. 23
The Rashomon Problemp. 25
A Freudian Psychoanalytic Approachp. 26
Artifacts and the Unconscious: Freud's Topographic Hypothesisp. 28
Id, Ego and Superego: Freud's Structural Hypothesisp. 31
Symbolic Aspects of Material Culturep. 33
Sexual Development and Material Culturep. 35
Conclusionsp. 37
Semiotic Approaches to Material Culturep. 38
Saussure on Signsp. 39
Problems with Interpreting Signsp. 43
Peirce on Signsp. 44
On the Veracity of Signsp. 46
Denotation and Connotationp. 47
Conclusionsp. 49
Sociological Analysis of Material Culturep. 50
Sociological Theoryp. 51
Functionalismp. 53
Taste Culturesp. 55
Uses and Gratifications Provided by Artifactsp. 59
Race, Ethnicity and Genderp. 60
Statusp. 61
Rolep. 62
Conclusionsp. 63
Economic Theory, Marxism, and Material Culturep. 64
Needs Versus Desires: Traveling Light and Arriving Heavyp. 65
Marxist Theory and Alienationp. 67
Class Conflictp. 68
The Role of Advertisingp. 69
Thorstein Veblen and Conspicuous Consumptionp. 70
Max Weber and Calvinist-Protestant Thoughtp. 72
Georg Simmel on Fashionp. 74
Walter Benjamin and the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductionp. 75
Authenticity and Postmodern Thoughtp. 77
Conclusionsp. 78
Cultural Theory and Material Culturep. 80
Culturep. 81
Clotaire Rapaille and Culture Codesp. 82
Mary Douglas and Grid-Group Theoryp. 84
Myth and Material Culturep. 88
Conclusionsp. 91
Archaeological Theory and Material Culturep. 92
The Cultural History and Anthropological Archaeology Approachesp. 94
Processual Theoryp. 95
Post-Processual Theoryp. 97
Contextp. 98
The Cha&ihat;ne Opératoirep. 99
Behavioral or Transformational Archaeologyp. 100
Cognitive Archaeologyp. 102
Conclusionsp. 103
Applicationsp. 105
Authenticity Paintings of Prince Henryp. 107
Context Mirrorsp. 115
Exchange Kula Objectsp. 123
Style Blue Jeansp. 129
Technology Cell Phonesp. 137
Globalization Coca-Colap. 145
Gender Cosmeticsp. 153
Identity Air Jordansp. 159
Transformation Booksp. 167
Reality Digital Camerasp. 175
Religion Rangda Masksp. 181
Shape Milk Cartonsp. 189
Representation The Tokyo Subway Systemp. 195
Material Culture Gamesp. 201
The Artifacts Inventory Gamep. 202
The Time Capsule Gamep. 204
Disciplinary Perspectives on Objectsp. 206
The Grid-Group Theory and Objects Gamep. 208
The Objects and Personal Identity Gamep. 211
The Signifying Objects Gamep. 212
Disciplinary Writing Exercisep. 214
The Analyzing Artifact Advertisements Gamep. 215
The Id/Ego/Superego Objects Gamep. 218
The Functions of Objects Gamep. 220
Bibliographyp. 223
Indexp. 233
About the Authorp. 239
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