This list relates to the academic year Academic Year 2017/18 which ended on 20/07/2018
This list has been archived
  1. Mass Consumption and Design 19 items
    1. Dr Adam Drazin




      The topic of consumption is immense, always politically significant, generally controversial, and often unexpectedly personal and sensitive. This course gives an overview of some of the key areas which have emerged from it. In doing so, it hopes to give some insights into the broader area of consumption. Consumption is at heart contested. It orients itself around tensions between ideas of high and low cultures, mass popular culture and specificity or uniqueness, and ideas of the manifest material and immaterial ideas. For example, if we look at 'shopping' or 'home', we can only look at some quite specific examples. But through looking at the kinds of tensions which are experienced in a moment of shopping, or a particular meal in a home, one is looking at broader sociopolitical struggles going on in society. The aim is that you will be able to think about examples such as these, and re-apply the questions to wider ones. Next year's consumption phenomenon will be very different from this year's, but some of the social phenomena persist.


      The course is posited on a broad narrative. The anthropological study of mass consumption as a serious area of social debate grew massively in the 1990s. This course proposes to explore the particular dimensions of the study of mass consumption through this period - a moment when ideas of the market economy came to be unchallenged, socialism declined, private home ownership and privatisation in general were hegemonic, and forms of material consumption were understood and recognised as crucial politically in society. The course then asks, what next? In the wake of economic changes (and collapses) of the late 2000s, the territory of consumption has shifted. Design is one of the ways in which one may ask new questions about this field. In other words, if in the 1990s-2000s, 'consuming' was one way in which people came to consciously understand their relationship with materiality, this course asks whether in the contemporary period, a paradigm of 'design' is increasingly how people understand this relationship. 

    3. Key Themes and Questions 1 item

        • What kinds of relationships 'to' objects, and materialities, are there?  
        • What sorts of people and identities correspond with different kinds of material relationships and expectations?
        • What kinds of wider political and social resonances do banal, everyday objects of consumption have?
        • What is an "anthropology of design"?
        • What does design 'do' in a cultural sense, and how is it different from consumption? 

    4. Course Format and Readings 1 item


        The lectures are intended as an overview, but are no replacement for actual reading.  The tutorials are an opportunity for you to express your ideas in your own language meanwhile, so it is is crucial that you come to each tutorial prepared to say something about the key readings - a summary, a question, a demonstration or (ideally) an evaluation of the reading.  


        Most weeks, I have identified an ethnographic study or studies, and then secondarily listed some more theoretical sources.  Basically, the aim is to discuss, present, and evaluate the ethnography drawing if possible on any theory you have read or skimmed, as in the secondary material.  


        I have listed a lot of readings for some weeks.  You mostly only need to worry about the key readings.  The supplementary ones are a combination of things you may wish to follow up on for your essay if a particular topic appeals, some foundational texts, and references which I may draw upon during the lectures.  I've put stars next to some readings, to indicate what I think are most interesting or relevant.  



    5. Assessment 1 item
      1. Assessment has two elements:  an essay, and an object biography.  More details will be outlined in the first 2 lectures.  Possible essay titles will be given out before reading week.



        The object biography comprises a shorter piece of writing, which describes the biography of a specific object (eg. an everyday consumer item), outlining and indicating the cultural relevance of such aspects as production and consumption, its life as a commodity, possession or gift, alienability and inalienability, property relations around it, marketing, Intentionality and designs.  


    6. General and Background Texts 14 items
      1. Consumption 8 items
        1. Consumption - Daniel Miller

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading: also available from e-book below

        2. Consumption - Daniel Miller

          Chapter Essential E-book

        3. Chapter 7: Cultures of consumption - Don Slater

          Chapter  in: Anderson, Kay et al (Eds) Handbook of cultural geography. Sage Publications, London, pp. 147-163: Digitised reading.

        4. Consumers and Consumption - Sharon Zukin, Jennifer Smith Maguire 08/2004


      2. Design & Culture 6 items
        1. Wild things: the material culture of everyday life - Judy Attfield 2000


        2. The designed world: images, objects, environments - Richard Buchanan, Dennis P. Doordan, Victor Margolin 2010


        3. The design culture reader - Ben Highmore 2009


        4. The culture of design - Guy Julier 2008


        5. The idea of design - Victor Margolin, Richard Buchanan c1995


        6. The design of everyday life - Elizabeth Shove 2007


  2. Week 1: Consuming 11 items
    The starting point of the course is an overview of Miller’s argument (set out in the 1987 book Material Culture and Mass Consumption), proposing how mass consumption is central to culture. The core theory of the initial week is therefore Miller’s theory of culture as a process of objectification, which is accelerated in mass consumption. In this sense, the study of consumption demands a particular viewpoint in what ‘culture’ is. The foundational theoretical pillars of the mass consumption part of the course are firstly Georg Simmel’s work (which Miller uses very effectively), and the Social life of Things approach associated with Arjun Appadurai and Igor Kopytoff. Essential to appreciating this argument is an appreciation of what sorts of problems people think consumption is ‘about’. The idea that the material world poses ‘a problem’ of ‘problems’ goes back to Marxist analyses of the commodity form. For the Tutorial, choose a favourite piece of clothing. Be prepared to talk about it, with reference to the key reading, and/or any others. Why do you ‘like’ this piece of clothing? What is the nature of human feeling about an object? When would it be worn, of at all, how does it look, what are its material properties? In what ways does it represent a ‘type’ of clothing, and in what ways is it a unique artefact? Is it fashionable? How does it fit, or not, the contemporary moment in history?
    1. Key Readings: 1 item
      1. The hazards of new clothes: What signs make possible - Webb Keane

        Chapter Essential in S. Kuechler & G. Were (Eds) The Art of Clothing: Digitised reading

    2. Supplementary Readings: 10 items
      1. Material culture and mass consumption - Miller, Daniel 1994, c1987


      2. Why clothing is not superficial - Daniel Miller

        Chapter  Digitised reading

      3. La Pensee Bougeoise: Western Society as Culture - M Sahlins 1976


      4. Indigo Bodies: fashion, mirror work and Sexual Identity in Milan - R Sassetelli 2011


      5. Fashion - Georg Simmel 1957


      6. Why women wear what they wear - Woodward, Sophie 2007


      7. On individuality and social forms: selected writings - Simmel, Georg, Levine, Donald Nathan 1971

        Book  Chapter: ‘Fashion’ pp 294-339. Also available from e-journal below.

  3. Week 2: Object Biographies 18 items
    What can an ‘object biography’ approach contribute to anthropological understandings of culture? How might material objects and relationships between people articulate? How do objects relate to ideas of agency? The key theory in Week 2 is the idea of the ‘social life of things’, which presents one perspective on how objects’ biographies relate to social relations and identities through their changing social states. Fundamental points here are, firstly, that consumption concerns not a moment of purchase and acquisition, but a long-term object’s biography through many social states; and secondly, that objects can be interpreted as having social agency. For the Tutorial, compare two of the key readings, which are ethnographic studies, with reference to ideas of the social life/cultural biography of things.
    1. •     What can an 'object biography' approach contribute to anthropological understandings of culture?

      •     How might material objects and relationships between people articulate?

      •     How do objects relate to ideas of agency?

      •     What is Appropriation? 

    2. Key Readings: 3 items
      1. Sorting out commodities - Anna Tsing 18/06/2013

        Article Essential

    3. Supplementary Readings: 14 items
      1. The social life of things: commodities in cultural perspective - Appadurai, Arjun c1986

        Book  Chapter: ‘Commodities and the Politics of Value

      2. Artifacts in Anthropology - L Chua, A Salmond

        Chapter  in The Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology

      3. Biographical objects: how things tell the stories of people's lives - Janet Hoskins 1998


      4. Agency, Biography and Objects’, C5 - J Hoskins 2006


      5. Salaula: the world of secondhand clothing and Zambia - Karen Tranberg Hansen c2000


      6. Inalienable Wealth - Annette B. Weiner 1985


  4. Week 3: Needing & Wanting 13 items


      • What is the 'self' in consumption?
      • As well as manifesting agency in themselves, in what ways can consumed objects contribute to the construction of humans as agents? 
      • How can consumption feel?


      This week we examine two things:  1. ideas of 'need' and 'desire' which surround consumption discourses, and 2. how these lead us to imagine people as particular kinds of self or person.  We will examine in more detail the work of George Simmel, which underlies Miller's argument about culture as a tension-filled process of objectification. 


      For the Tutorial, read one of the key readings.  Write a one-page letter addressed to the author saying what you think of the paper. Reference theory if you can.


    2. Key Readings 2 items
      1. Food and culture: a reader - Carole Counihan, Penny Van Esterik 2008

        Book Essential The relevant chapter is by Lisa Heldke; check the moodle site.

    3. Supplementary Reading 10 items
      1. Why Do People Want Goods? - Mary Douglas

        Chapter  in S. Hargreaves Heap & A. Ross (Eds) Understanding the Enterprise Culture: Themes in the Work of Mary Douglas

      2. Classical social theory - Ian Craib 1997


      3. GEORG SIMMEL. - David Frisby


      4. ‘Individualization, Exaggeration and Paralysation - B Nedelmann 1994

        Chapter  in D. Frisby (Ed) Georg Simmel: Critical Assessments

      5. Design and aesthetics: a reader - Palmer, Jerry, Dodson, Mo 1996

        Book  Chapter: ‘Need and Function: the Terms of a Debate’

      6. ‘Necessity and Hierarchy’ - J Sekora

        Chapter  in Miller, D. Consumption: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences pp17-32

  5. Week 4: Collecting 18 items
    What do I mean when I say ‘conspicuous consumption’? What is ‘collecting’? Is consumption a one-way process of acquisition, getting more and more stuff, or is it also about processes of disposal, rejection, and sacrifice? Consumption is not just about individual identity, and notions of personal experience, it can be a way of living. Much consumption is intrinsically connected to household - to what kinds of spaces we live in, and the kinds of group (family, collective) we live with. By one measure, consumption is about specifically when objects move from public spaces to private ones, so the constitution of the boundaries of home can create what consumption is. Consumption is as much about the household economy as the public economy. For the Tutorial, what are the implications of considering gendered consumption as either collecting, or as conspicuous consumption?
    1. Key Readings: 3 items
      1. (Re)enacting motherhood: self-sacrifice and abnegation in the kitchen - Benedetta Cappellini, Elizabeth Parsons

        Chapter Essential E-book Chapter is in Part 1 section 4

      2. The Consumer Society Reader - Holt, Douglas ; Lenaghan, Elizabeth Schor, Juliet (editor)

        Journal Essential

    2. Supplementary Reading: 15 items
      1. The aristocracy of culture - P. Bourdieu, R. Nice 01/07/1980


      2. On Collecting Art and Culture


      3. Collecting in a consumer society - Belk, Russell W. 1995


      4. The comfort of things - Miller, Daniel 2008


      5. Collectors and Collecting - R Belk

        Chapter  in Tilley et al Handbook of Material Culture, pp534-545, Sage

      6. Capitalism, Consumption and the Problem of Motives’ - C Campbell


      7. Consumer culture and modernity - Slater, Don 1997


      8. Conspicuous Consumption’ - T Veblen


  6. Week 5: Sacrificing 25 items
    - Is it possible to Not consume? - Can one make a political difference to how society is structured, through how we consume? How you think consumption makes a difference, or not, depends on how you think power and politics work, and in particular notions of property, private and public. By contrasting anthropological studies about environmental ideas (reducing waste) with ethnographies of second-hand goods, we can consider the range of problems people face in developing social activism around consumption. In the Tutorial, we will debate the proposals: Giving things up is the best way to change capitalism for the better. OR Appropriating and subverting products’ and brands’ meanings is the best way to change capitalism for the better.
    1. Key Readings: 6 items
      (Choose two relevant to your statement - A or B)
    2. Supplementary Readings: 19 items
      1. Global public goods - Philip Golub, Jean-Paul Maréchal


      2. Material markets: how economic agents are constructed - MacKenzie, Donald A. 2009


      3. The politics of consumption: material culture and citizenship in Europe and America - Daunton, M. J., Hilton, Matthew 2001

        Book  Chapter: Material Politics: an introduction

      4. Excess: anti-consumerism in the West - Humphery, Kim 2010


      5. Ethical consumption: a critical introduction - Lewis, Tania, Potter, Emily 2011


      6. Consumption and its consequences - Miller, Daniel 2012

        Book  Chapter: What’s Wrong with Consumption?’

      7. Jihad vs. McWorld - Barber, Benjamin R. c2001


      8. Living in denial: climate change, emotions, and everyday life - Norgaard, Kari Marie c2011


      9. Consuming cultures: global perspectives, historical trajectories, transnational exchanges - Brewer, John, Trentmann, Frank 2006

        Book  Chapter: Sassatelli, R. 2006 ‘Virtue, Responsibility and Problematising the Consumer’

      10. The Environment in Anthropology - Nora Haenn, Richard Wilk December 1, 2005 (Paperback)

        Book  Chapter: ‘The Ecology of Global Consumer Culture’

  7. Week 6: Planning 22 items
    1. We here examine some of the globally significant examples of how consumption, design and culture interact. 

                  IKEA typefies ideas of consumption and design in many countries, and is seen as a uniform, homogenising force in global culture; and yet every IKEA store, in every country, has different cultural resonances. IKEA may be global as a corporation, but is local in its consumption. In its Swedish heartland, it reveals how materialised, designed objects are intensely politicised. 

                  China, meanwhile, is itself a force behind the contemporary world of goods, and provides an alternative history of how design and consumption operate as a pivot for the negotiation of ideas of social change. It is one key example of how at an elite level, many countries are attempting to move from 'production and export' of goods towards 'designing and intellectually owning' goods. Convergent with this is a very fast-moving and problematic landscape of consumption, in which notions of inequality, personhood, and senses of personal political recognition are constantly negotiated through material goods. Both Sweden and China represent very localised histories of design and consumption. 


    2. Key Readings: 2 items
    3. Supplementary Readings: Swedish Design and IKEA 13 items
      1. The McDonaldization of society - Ritzer, George c2004


      2. Enchanting a disenchanted world: revolutionizing the means of consumption - Ritzer, George c2005

        Book  (a sociology book to be skimmed for its main points, rather than picked through in detail; in some ways, he contradicts his earlier work)

      3. Interpreting objects and collections - Pearce, Susan M. 1994

        Book  Chapter: Duncan, C. 1994 ‘Art Museums and the Ritual of Citizenship’

      4. The limits of rationality - Rogers Brubaker 1984


      5. Culture materialised: IKEA furniture and other evangelical artefacts - Pauline Garvey

        Chapter  Available online from NUI Maynooth ePrints and eTheses Archive

      6. Home decoration as popular culture - M Gullestad

        Chapter Essential Digitised reading

      7. On the Ikeaization of France - T. Hartman 01/10/2007

        Article  in Public culture 19(3) 2007,

      8. Design by Ikea: a cultural history - Sara Kristoffersson, William Jewson 2014


    4. Supplementary Readings: Consumption in China 6 items
      1. The consumer revolution in urban China - Davis, Deborah 2000


      2. Appetites: food and sex in postsocialist China - Farquhar, Judith 2002


      3. Visuality/Materiality: Images Objects and Practices - Gillian Rose, Divya P. Tolia-Kelly 2012

        Book  Not available at UCL. Available at Senate House Library and British Library, see COPAC for details.

      4. Desiring China: experiments in neoliberalism, sexuality, and public culture - Rofel, Lisa 2007


      5. Chap 6: Clothes Make the Woman - Zheng, Tiantian c2009


  8. Week 7: Designing 22 items
    1. This week we will watch parts of the film Design Thinking, in order to explore some of the processes which lie behind the contemporary notion of professional design. The term 'design thinking' has been flavour-of-the-month as a way of characterising the value of design work, for the last couple of years. In fact, it describes a kind of user-centred design approach which has been popular for some time.

                              The discussion will evoke and explore questions of what sort of agency is manifested in design, as an idea. 

    2. Key readings 4 items
      1. The social life of concepts in design anthropology - Wendy Gunn et al.

        Chapter Essential E-book Chapter 2

    3. Supplementary Readings: 17 items
      1. Design thinking - Cross, Nigel 2011


      2. Design as politics - Fry, Tony 2011


      3. Design and anthropology - Gunn, Wendy, Donovan, Jared c2012


      4. Design anthropology: theory and practice - Wendy Gunn, Rachel Charlotte Smith 2013


      5. The design of everyday life - Elizabeth Shove 2007

        Book  ‘Having and Doing: the Case of the Restless Kitchen’, pp21-40

      6. Emerging Landscapes of Design’ - Teiler A


      7. The Perception of the User-Producer - T. Ingold

        Chapter  E-book in W. Gunn and J. Donovan Design and Anthropology, pp. 19-34, Ashgate

      8. Design anthropology: object culture in the 21st century - Clarke, Alison J. 2011

        Book  Chapter: ‘The Anthropological Object in Design: from Victor Papanek to Superstudio Daniel Miller’

  9. Week 8: Experiencing 10 items
    1. Key Readings: 2 items
    2. Supplementary Readings: 8 items
      1. Vibrant matter: a political ecology of things - Jane Bennett 2010


      2. The Japanese house: material culture in the modern home - Inge Daniels 2010


      3. Stuff - Daniel Miller 2010


      4. The Routledge companion to identity and consumption - Ayalla Ruvio, Russell W. Belk 2013


  10. Week 9: Deserving 16 items
    Increasingly, we live in a world of transnational homes, and living across borders. Migration and ideas of materialism elide: because very often, migration is perceived as, or represented as, a moment of being materialistic. People may migrate ‘for’ goods, ‘for’ homes, or else they migrate in one direction to work, and are perceived as sending goods in the other direction. In short, material consumption on a transnational scale is one of the ways that migration is negotiated. The literature about consumption in transnational homes and families, which is heavily linked to notions of money, reveals how consumption operates as a process of manifesting and negotiating meriting and deserving.
    1. Key readings 3 items
      1. ‘Shifting meanings of “home”: consumption and identity in Moroccan women’s transnational practices between Italy and Morocco’ - R Salih

        Chapter Essential in e-book: N. Ali-Ali and K. Koser (eds) (2002) New Approaches to Migration? Transnational communities and the transformation of home NOTE that the e Book is a bit clunky, and Salih's chapter starts on page 51.

      2. The Decision to Live - A Drazin 2014

        Chapter Essential in A. Moran et al (eds) Love Objects, Bloomsbury NB. Available online

    2. Supplementary Readings: 13 items
      1. The social meaning of money: 'Special monies' - Viviana A. Zelizer

        Chapter Optional E-book Chapter 5

      2. Consumer Society in American History - Lawrence B. Glickman September 1999 (Paperback)

        Book Optional Chapter: Heintze, A. 1999 ‘From Scarcity to Abundance: the Immigrant as Consumer’

      3. Home possessions: material culture behind closed doors - Miller, Daniel 2001

        Book Optional Chapter: Petridou, E. 2001 ‘The Taste of Home’

      4. Markets and moralities: ethnographies of postsocialism - Mandel, Ruth Ellen, Humphrey, Caroline 2002

        Book Optional Chapter: Pine, F. 2002 ‘Dealing with Money: zlotys, dollars and other currencies in the Polish Highlands’

      5. Payments and social ties - Viviana A. Zelizer

        Chapter Optional E-book Chapter 7

      6. The philosophy of money - Simmel, Georg, Frisby, David, Bottomore, T. B., Mengelberg, Kaethe 2004

        Book Optional

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