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date: 01 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the place of materials in contemporary anthropological research. Moving away from semiotic approaches to material culture, the focus is on the diverse ways in which the vitality of materials is invoked in different analytical traditions and diverse ethnographic settings. Phenomenological approaches to craft practice emphasize the intrinsic relationality and vitality of materials over and beyond the capacity of human intention to impose form. This celebration of the vital force of materials is contrasted to a darker and more explicitly material politics that emerges from contemporary studies of waste disposal and resource extraction where toxicity and deathly effects characterize the transformational force of material life. Anthropological investigations into material agency and the personhood of things also attend to the immaterial and affective dimensions of material relations and pose ontological questions about the social consequences of material life.

Keywords: anthropology, material vitality, relationality, waste, toxicity, agency, personhood, politics, affect, transformation

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