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Objects and Imagination: Perspectives on Materialization and Meaning

Øivind Fuglerud
Leon Wainwright
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Objects and Imagination
    Book Description:

    Despite the wide interest in material culture, art, and aesthetics, few studies have considered them in light of the importance of the social imagination - the complex ways in which we conceptualize our social surroundings. This collection engages the "material turn" in the arts, humanities, and social sciences through a range of original contributions on creativity in diverse global and contemporary social settings. The authors engage with everyday objects, art, rituals, and ethnographic exhibitions to analyze the relationship between material culture and the social imagination. What results is a better understanding of how the material embodies and influences our idea of the social world.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-567-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Øivind Fuglerud and Leon Wainwright

    This volume brings together new empirical studies on a variety of topics ranging from ritual and art to advertising and museums. It shows that, regardless of their differences, these topics hold something in common, and complement and speak to one another. While the chapters are grouped into three thematic parts, these themes are overlapping and the contributions are commented upon in this Introduction without regard to these divisions. Working to address their importance in diverse parts of the world, our contributing authors share an interest in the way that the material world comes into being, how its objects are seen...

  6. Part I. Museums

    • 1 Contemporary Iroquois Art between Ethnographic Museum, Art Gallery and Global Market Place: Reflections on the Politics of Identity and Representation
      (pp. 27-44)
      Sylvia S. Kasprycki

      The opening of a comprehensive show of modern and contemporary Native American art at the Ethnological Museum Berlin in March 2012, entitled ‘Native American Modernism – Art from North America’ (Bolz and König 2012), once again gave rise to a debate on the inevitable question: ‘Should non-Western art be displayed in a museum of ethnography?’ Reference was made by one reviewer to the ‘war of opinion’ between proponents of the cultural contextualization of art on the one hand and critics of the ‘ghettoization’ of non-Western artists on the other. With assessments ranging from ‘antiquated and folkloristic in our pop- and concept-art...

    • 2 Disconnecting Relations: Exhibitions and Objects as Resistance
      (pp. 45-63)
      Peter Bjerregaard

      The proliferation of research on material culture in its recent guise of materiality has brought about a new interest in museums. Not only have museums become increasingly interesting as objects of research (Henare 2005; Bouquet 2001a), they have also become sites for exploring the effects of the material turn in practice (Latour and Weibel 2005; Herle, Elliott and Empson 2009; Dudley 2010).

      A critical aspect of exhibition design discussed in the literature seems to be the capability of materiality to overcome the distance created by the institutionalized authority and styles of display of the museum of the past. In a...

    • 3 Materializing Islam and the Imaginary of Sacred Space
      (pp. 64-78)
      Saphinaz-Amal Naguib

      Sharon Macdonald posits that museums are, in a way, sacralized places and may be compared to religious sites. They are said to be temples of culture, cathedrals of knowledge, mausoleums of past civilizations and keepers of the world’s heritage and memories. Museums and religious sites also ‘share an aesthetic: hushed tones, dimmed lighting, a sense of reverence – of being in communion with the sacred; they may emanate an aura of age, the past, anachronism’ (Macdonald 2005: 209). This scenography affects both the displays and the public.

      Since the 1970s, museums have shifted their priorities from the presentation of authentic artefacts...

  7. Part II. Presence

    • 4 Visible While Away: Migration, Personhood and the Movement of Money amongst the Mbuke of Papua New Guinea
      (pp. 81-92)
      Anders Emil Rasmussen

      I begin this chapter with a peculiar situation I found myself in while making kinship diagrams on Mbuke Islands (Manus Province, Papua New Guinea). I was asking a young man how many brothers he had. He told me he had two, both of whom were away as work migrants. It so happened that I had also interviewed his parents who had informed me that they had four sons, three of whom were work migrants. ‘Only two?’, I asked the young man, while presumably looking suspicious or confused. He said: ‘Well, there is another one, but I don’t know about him,...

    • 5 Being There while Being Here: Long-distance Aesthetics and Sensations in Tamil National Rituals
      (pp. 93-110)
      Stine Bruland

      This chapter explores how diasporic supporters of the Tamil side in Sri Lanka’s civil war – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – enact and experience LTTE’s national symbols and practices during the grandiose ritual ofmaveerar naal, or ‘Great Heroes’ Day’. Every year on 27 November, tens of thousands of LTTE supporters attendmaveerar naalin places like Paris, London, Oslo, Copenhagen, Toronto, New Jersey, Chennai and Sydney. In this ritual, they honour theirmaveerars, ‘heroes’ or ‘martyrs’, who died fighting for Tamil Eelam – a Tamil state separate from Sri Lanka. The LTTE supporters invest a great amount of work,...

    • 6 Food Presentations Moving Overseas: Ritual Aesthetics and Everyday Sociality in Tonga and among Tongan Migrants
      (pp. 111-132)
      Arne Aleksej Perminow

      Slightly more than one hundred thousand Tongans live in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga. Some sources estimate that perhaps as many as a quarter of a million Tongans now live outside Tonga. Many of the homeland-based Tongans rely heavily on remittances from overseas kin. In 2007, such remittances, according to Besnier, made up more than half of Tonga’s annual revenue (Besnier 2009: 222). Overseas-based Tongans, on the other hand, acquire substances and objects cultivated or manufactured in Tonga from homeland kin in order to stage characteristic Tongan events. The focus of this chapter is the use in Tonga and among...

    • 7 Imaginations at War: The Ephemeral and the Fullness of Life in Southwest China
      (pp. 133-159)
      Katherine Swancutt

      The imagination is often believed to be the engine of invention, triggering unpredictable, fortuitous or even ‘chaotic’ life experiences. Not only does the imagination frequently draw people, things and other beings into the same shared ‘space of indeterminacy in social and cultural life’ (Sneath, Holbraad and Pedersen 2009: 24). But when faced with the ‘essentially unpredictable and often quite unintended’ force of someone else’s imagination, the person typically has little other recourse than to respond imaginatively to it (ibid.: 22). It is, of course, no easy feat to envisage someone else’s imaginative thoughts or behaviours. Yet, in this chapter, I...

    • 8 How Pictures Matter: Religious Objects and the Imagination in Ghana
      (pp. 160-184)
      Birgit Meyer

      The central theme of this volume is the role of objects in the construction of everyday life. It acknowledges their – literally – constructive role, but takes a critical stance with regard to radical versions of new materialism that foreground the ‘thingliness’ of objects at the expense of the meaning they have for people. At stake here is a broader understanding of human–object relations as shaped by historically transmitted, more or less institutionalized frames or imaginaries. Proposing that ‘a sharpening of focus on the imagination will contribute crucially to studies in material anthropology’ (Fuglerud and Wainwright, this volume), the guiding idea...

  8. Part III. Art

    • 9 Art as Empathy: Imaging Transfers of Meaning and Emotion in Urban Aboriginal Australia
      (pp. 187-206)
      Fiona Magowan

      This chapter will argue that moving is key to creative empathy among suburban-based Aboriginal artists¹ as they make, imagine and shape fragmented identities and (re)connect with others. It compares the paintings and narratives of artists, who were exhibiting at the Tandanya Art Fair,² as they reflect upon the ongoing effects of Acts of Parliament that led to children being taken from families from the mid-1800s to the mid-1970s.³ Known today as the ‘Stolen Generations’, some of the artists have experienced the impact of forced removal from their families and some are grandchildren of forcibly removed grandparents. The long-awaited historic Apology,...

    • 10 Transvisionary Imaginations: Artistic Subjectivity and Creativity in Tamil Nadu
      (pp. 207-229)
      Amit Desai and Maruška Svašek

      We rose from our chairs at the end of our interview and the artist Vidyashankar Sthapathy showed us a bronze sculpture that sat on a long table pushed up against the wall of his house. It was of a man and a woman lying together and comprised of six parts: two heads, two pairs of legs, and one pair of hands. The man’s head was resting on that of the woman. One hand lay on his knee; the other was placed to the side at the end of an invisible arm that was cradling his companion (see figure 10.1). Vidyashankar...

    • 11 An Indian Cocktail of Value/s and Desire: On the Artification of Whisky and Fashion
      (pp. 230-247)
      Tereza Kuldova

      It is May 2011, and once again I am on my way back to New Delhi. Waiting at the airport in Helsinki for a connecting flight, my phone beeps. ‘Get me Chivas Regal 18, for my bar, pay you when you reach, better take two bottles’, says the message. Not the first message of this kind, and not the last, I suspect. The appeal of airport duty free is still immense. After I get through the immigration queue at the Indira Gandhi International Airport I pass the Duty Free shop. I am struck by large posters suggesting I purchase Chivas...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 248-250)
  10. Index
    (pp. 251-258)