Material Culture

The same but different

During this lecture, we focused on the word’ Matter’. Does everything matter? The material and immaterial?  Within a subject-object relation, I think it’s “yes”. ‘Material culture implies that much of what we are exists not through our consciousness or body but as an exterior environment that habituates and prompts.’ (Miller 1987) In his opinion, material world take a really matter place which help to build our cognition. Within the outer environment, most of us are constantly influenced by our surroundings without awareness, and this kind of relation also belongs to the invisible rule of the political that has been permeated into our daily life, in an interaction way.

The relationship between our object and us is akin to an interpersonal way, thus ‘material culture as a return to real.’ (Brown 2011) To talk about the reality with object, politic will also be taken into account. As Marres and Lezaun (2011) said: ‘Objects, devices, settings and materials, not just subjects, acquire explicit political capacities, capacities that are themselves the object of public struggle and contestation, and serve to enact distinctive ideals of citizenship and participation’. That is to say, the objects been given to political background when they start to have a relation with human, and then, in return, human use the capacity to build their own subjects, the citizenship. While, sometimes it’s not a two-way choice, because some of these are limited by the power of politic. Based on this theory, I found 6 pictures in different format of my object. As the expound above, I’ll then talk about how these thoughts embodied in my object, a rock amethyst.’The role of material objects in the organisation of publics’.(ibid)

I have to admit that I was shocked when I realize my object could have so much raged political differences by its not quite big differences from the first sight of its original. Gem could be precious by its own, but they have been already classified when the exploitation was made.

The first group below show out two types of so-called ‘nature stone’ in two different connotations. The original rough mineral of amethyst, on the left, is the original shape of the amethyst. It will be divided into different levels due to their values. And from the best quality part, they will make them into other forms to have an improved value. And the others will also be classified and be put into different use. Therefor, different qualities will get into relative area, to match the people with the same status. The picture on the right shows out some carved types, which are ready to be put in as decorations, or just for enshrinement. The people who own them also state out their political identity, that the labour works who found the mine may not own it, and the semi finished articles are not belong to the maker, only the rich or the high classes could have the chance to have the best ones, while the normal quality or bad quality will be taken by the normal public.


The second group below shows out the jewelry form. Jewels always stand for the dignitary, materialised their power and status. Owning to the function of the jewelry is showing off, human make decorations for their body is a way to pleasure themselves as beautiful and charming, while from a political aspect, it might be called peacockery. The pair of earring is the latest morden style, made by a famous Lebanon designer- Noor Fares. Its name is Krystallos (crystal) Pendulum, 3D pyramid. With 18k gold and amethyst. The sets on the right is made by the company Cartier, in 1850, with gold, hawksbill and amethyst. From the political perspective, a high class should have the precious type for a corresponding subject-object relation, such as if some poor hold the sets, then might be considered as a fake one or get from an improper way, even can’t match well with their tinpot dress.



The final group are the other part of the group people from the politic aspects. The left one stands for religion, an important politic part, still take an really important role in many countries nowadays. And the last one is a fortuneteller with her globe, the people seems not belong to any party, living as a subgroup, also take gems as a symbolise of communication with the mystical power. It also represents the most direct subject-object relation between human and the object because they made them interact in an outward act.




Miller, D. (1987) Material Culture and Mass Consumption. Oxford: Blackwell.

Marres, N., Lezaun, J. (2015) ‘Material and Devices of the Public: An Introduction’ Economy and Society Vol 40 (4) 489-509


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