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Writing (Material) Culture
How do we use things to tell stories? How do the things we use shape who we are? The field of material culture studies approaches these questions by examining the role of objects in social life: their importance as material representations of culture and also as agents in its production and reproduction. In this course, we will explore ways to write about material culture, asking how those of us interested in culture (whether as anthropologists, educators, designers, journalists, curators or poets) can most effectively represent and analyze the social role of things through writing. Throughout the semester, students will read different genres of thing-based storytelling - social theory, fiction, archaeological site reports, ethnographies, museum catalogs, and longform journalism. We will discuss how the authors of these works use things to describe and analyze the relationship between materials and ideas, reality and metaphor, positivism and multivocality, spatiality and temporality, and the politics of curation, commodity chains, ownership, and heritage. Students will write short pieces in different genres and review the work of peers, culminating in a final portfolio demonstrating students' ability to practice and assess effective writing about material culture.
Course Attributes: EN S; BU Eth; AS SSC; FA SSC; AR SSC