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The Social Life of Things

The Social Life of Things
Commodities in Cultural Perspective


Nancy Farriss, Arjun Appadurai, Igor Kopytoff, William H. Davenport, Alfred Gell, Colin Renfrew, Patrick Geary, Brian Spooner, Lee V. Cassanelli, William M. Reddy, C. A. Bayly
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  • Date Published: March 1988
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521357265

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About the Authors
  • The meaning that people attribute to things necessarily derives from human transactions and motivations, particularly from how those things are used and circulated. The contributors to this volume examine how things are sold and traded in a variety of social and cultural settings, both present and past. Focusing on culturally defined aspects of exchange and socially regulated processes of circulation, the essays illuminate the ways in which people find value in things and things give value to social relations. By looking at things as if they lead social lives, the authors provide a new way to understand how value is externalized and sought after. Containing contributions from American and British social anthropologists and historians, the volume bridges the disciplines of social history, cultural anthropology, and economics, and marks a major step in our understanding of the cultural basis of economic life and the sociology of culture. It will appeal to anthropologists, social historians, economists, archaeologists, and historians of art.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 1988
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521357265
    • length: 339 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 150 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.562kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword Nancy Farriss
    Part I. Toward an anthropology of things:
    1. Introduction: commodities and the politics of value Arjun Appadurai
    2. The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process Igor Kopytoff
    Part II. Exchange, Consumption, and Display:
    3. Two kinds of value in the Eastern Solomon Islands William H. Davenport
    4. Newcomers to the world of goods: consumption among the Muria Gonds Alfred Gell
    Part III. Prestige, Commemoration, and Value:
    5. Varna and the emergence of wealth in prehistoric Europe Colin Renfrew
    6. Sacred commodities: the circulation of medieval relics Patrick Geary
    Part IV. Production Regimes and the Sociology of Demand:
    7. Weavers and dealers: the authenticity of an oriental carpet Brian Spooner
    8. Qat: changes in the production and consumption of a quasilegal commodity in northeast Africa Lee V. Cassanelli
    Part V. Historical Transformations and Commodity Codes:
    9. The structure of a cultural crisis: thinking about cloth in France before and after the Revolution William M. Reddy
    10. The origins of swadeshi (home industry): cloth and Indian society, 1700–1930 C. A. Bayly

  • Editor

    Arjun Appadurai, New School University, New York


    Nancy Farriss, Arjun Appadurai, Igor Kopytoff, William H. Davenport, Alfred Gell, Colin Renfrew, Patrick Geary, Brian Spooner, Lee V. Cassanelli, William M. Reddy, C. A. Bayly

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