looking at the hidden side of the material world
Material culture, strictly speaking, is substance culture. Nevertheless, studies on material culture are almost exclusively concerned with things. The specificities in the perception of substances and the related everyday practices are rarely taken into consideration. Although this can be explained by the history of anthropology, the bias towards associating material culture with "formed matter" is a foundational shortcoming. In consequence, particular perspectives on the material remain understudied, and the cultural relevance of substances as such is rarely taken into consideration. Taking a perspective grounded in anthropology and phenomenology, this article intends to provide new approaches to substances that elucidate the particular modes of their perception, reveal their characteristics and reflect on particular notions implicit to substances. The final section of this contribution discusses two exemplary studies on substances and proposes transformation and incorporation as new fields of research that would contribute to a more explicit engagement with substances in material culture studies.
Hahn, H.P. , Soentgen, J. (2011). Acknowledging substances: looking at the hidden side of the material world. Philosophy & Technology 24 (1), pp. 19-33.
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