Material culture records human intrusion in the environment. It is the way we imagine a distinction between nature and culture, and then rebuild nature to our own desire, by shaping, reshaping, and arranging things during our lifetimes.. "In Material Culture, Henry Glassie calls us to first principles and common things, as we work to build a better view of humanity. Throug...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Indiana University Press
(first published 1999)
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Folklorist and ethnographer Henry H. Glassie’s Material Culture (1999) pulls together thought and work developed over the course of the author’s career. Favoring straightforward expression over theoretical gymnastics, Glassie bemoans the loss of 1960s-style academic activism noting that the trend is to “refine theory past any empirical need, displaying academic virtuosity, while the world fades from attention” (76). He defines material culture as the “tangible yield of human conduct” and suggest...more
In this ethnographic examination of how material objects function in cultural contexts, Glassie argues that the meaning of material culture has been lost to the late 20th century’s preoccupation with theory and the critical reformulation of academic paradigms. Glassie advocated for a trans-disciplinary approach, which focuses on interconnectedness rather than disciplinary and theoretical fragmentation, with a returned attention to the ways in which ideas are manifest in materiality.
Glassie has a wonderful eye and raises the vernacular world of material culture for thoughtful study and inquiry. The book is a classic for folks in many, many fields but--best yet--it is accessible to anyone. (For many of us, this book is a great way to try to explain to our families just what it is that we hope to do.)