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Material Culture and Commodities Reading Group

Programme 2014/15

Tuesdays, 12-1pm, in H0.45

The Material Culture and Commodities Reading Group aims to discuss the issues and opportunities of centering objects,
things, and commodities at the heart of academic research. In each session, we hope to explore a theme of material culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. For more information, please contact Rachael Morton ( or Kimberley Thomas (


3 February 2015 (Week 5) - Alternative Exchanges: Gifting, Lending, Stealing

Marcel Mauss, The Gift (to be pre-circulated); Beverly Lemire, "The Theft of Clothes and Popular Consumerism in Early Modern England," Journal of Social History 24/2 (1990): 255-276; Jon Stobart and Ilja Van Damme, eds. Modernity and the Second-Hand Trade: European Consumption, Cultures and Practices, 1700-1900 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) - pick one chapter to read, available online.

This will compliment the upcoming conference 'Making and Mobilising Objects' to be held in Warwick on Saturday 21 February.

3 March 2015 (Week 9) - Objects in Art, and Objects as Art

Susan Deans-Smith, "Creating the Colonial Subject: Casta Paintings, Collectors and Critics in Eighteenth-Century Mexico and Spain," Colonial Latin American Review 14/2 (2005): 169-204. We will also discuss the Disobedient Objects Exhibition at the V&A, which you can visit until 1 Feb or explore the website at We will also consider the exhibition catalogue, in which there is a roundtable discussion, and other images.



4 February 2014

Object Lifecycle

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, "Hannah Barnard's Cupboard," in The Age of Homespun (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 108-142. Igor Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things," in The Social Life of Things, ed. Arjun Appadurai (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 64-95.

18 February 2014

Object Agency

Janet Hoskins, "Agency, Biography and Objects" (Available Online). Bruno Latour, "Third Source of Uncertainty: Objects too have Agency," in Reassembling the Social: an Introduction to Actor-Network Theory.

4 March 2014

Objects in Literature

Natasha Korda, "The Sign of the Last: Gender, Material Culture and Artisnal Nostalgia in the Shoemaker's Holiday," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 43/3 (2013): 573-597. Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010).


6 May 2014

Objects as Things

Bill Brown, "Thing Theory," Critical Enquiry 28/1 (2001): 1-22. Peter Schwenger, "Words and the Murder of the Thing," Critical Enquiry 28/1 (2001): 99-113.

20 May 2014

Emotional Objects

Jane Hamlett and Lesley Hoskins, "Comfort in Small Things? Clothing, Control and Agency in Country Lunatic Asylums in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England," Journal of Victorian Culture 18 (2013): 93-114. Arthur Asa Berger, "The Objects of Our Affection" (Chapter 5) in The Objects of Affection: Semiotics and Consumer Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), 116-167.

3 June 2014

Objects as Commodities

Joan Bristol, "A Trail of Precious Goods: Colonial Latin American Commodity History," History Compass 11/11 (2013): 948-956. Bruce Robbins, "Commodity Histories," PMLA 120/2 (2005): 454-463. Bertie Mendelblatt, "A Transatlantic Commodity: Irish Salt Beef in the French Atlantic World," History Workshop Journal 63 (2007): 18-47.

17 June 2014

Objects in Action

This week we plan to bring in a few objects or images of objects to discuss. Please feel free to bring in any yourself!