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Look Inside Material Cultures, Material Minds

Material Cultures, Material Minds
The Impact of Things on Human Thought, Society, and Evolution


  • Author: Nicole Boivin, Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Cambridge
  • Date Published: December 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521176132

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About the Authors
  • Recent symbolic and social analyses have drawn much attention to the role of material culture in human society, emphasising the representational and ideological aspects of the material world. These studies have, nonetheless, often overlooked how the very physicality of material culture and our material surroundings make them unique and distinctive from text and discourse. In this book, Boivin explores how the physicality of the material world shapes our thoughts, emotions, cosmological frameworks, social relations and even our bodies. Focusing on the agency of material culture, she draws on the work of a diverse range of thinkers, from Marx and Merleau-Ponty to Darwin, while highlighting a wide selection of studies in archaeology, cultural anthropology, history, cognitive science and evolutionary biology. She asks what is distinctive about material culture compared to other aspects of human culture and presents a comprehensive overview of material agency that has much to offer to both scholars and students.

    • Moves beyond the symbolic aspects of material culture and takes into account the materiality of material culture
    • Focuses specifically on how material culture impacts human society, thought and evolution
    • Interdisciplinary in character and offers both humanities/social sciences perspectives on the role of material culture in society
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This book is a brave attempt to deal with the relationships between humans and things from the perspectives of natural scientists as well as of humanists and social scientists. It is indeed remarkable how the relationships between people and things are studied in distinct and separate traditions, and Boivin is to be congratulated for having the courage to take an inclusive view. She is right that many of those who discuss modern material culture … pay scant attention to things themselves and their material connections. … She challenges us towards a fuller integration of human and material sciences, of socio-cultural and evolutionary perspectives.' Journal of Anthropological Research

    'The strengths of this book are its very accessible language, broad coverage, and many examples from case studies, including the author's ethnoarchaeological and geoarchaeological research in rural India. It is very appropriate for classroom adoption and would be appreciated by anyone wanting a comprehensive and thoroughly explained introduction to this complex subject.' American Anthropologist

    'Nicole Boivin invites readers to rethink fundamental relationships between people and material culture. With indifference to disciplinary boundaries, her highly original synthesis … is refreshing and significant … [It] incisively discusses theoretical issues in accessible and graceful prose.' Technology and Culture

    'Nicole Boivin's superb book explores the consequences of taking materiality seriously in our accounts of culture and mind. It is a timely contribution to the study of mind and artefacts in culture and society, and key reading for anyone interested in human development and human evolution.' Chris Sinha, University of Portsmouth

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521176132
    • length: 288 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • contains: 67 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Representation and matter
    3. Words are not enough
    4. The agency of matter
    5. A self-made species
    6. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Nicole Boivin, Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Cambridge
    Nicole Boivin is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology and Jesus College, University of Oxford.

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