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Preface

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pp. vii-ix

This book has arisen out of my continuing engagement with archaeological artifacts from the Aegean Bronze Age. Faced with such artifacts there is a constant urge to understand what they may have meant in their original social contexts. Yet archaeologists...

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1 Introduction: Thinking Through Material Culture

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pp. 1-10

This book advocates a full theoretical reappraisal of material culture and offers some initial steps toward this larger goal. Evidently it is written by an archaeologist and uses archaeological case studies. Indeed, of all disciplines it is archaeology that needs material culture most. It is...

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2 Animacy, Agency, and Personhood

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pp. 11-34

The piecing together of a theoretical framework for understanding material culture is a precarious process, as a number of key conceptual relationships are in need of review and adaptation. Here then we begin with a consideration of the status of objects in relation to the various guises taken by the human subject. Humans are organisms...

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3 Cognition, Perception, and Action

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pp. 35-63

It was apparent in the last chapter that biologists have tended to focus on individual organisms independently of their physical environment; much the same can be said of cognitive scientists, in their propensity for isolating internal mental states in explaining cognitive phenomena (Clark 1997, 46). The upshot is...

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4 The Dynamics of Networks

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pp. 64-84

In the previous two chapters we have seen how different phenomena come to be distributed through space and time. The phenomena we discussed were cognition, agency and meaning. Cognition is distributed in that it is not confined to the brain, but is invariably drawn into the body and the external world.1 Agency,...

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5 Networks of Meaning: A Sociosemiotics of Material Culture

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pp. 85-106

Previously, I have proposed that, since mind, agency, and matter are codependent and come together in the nexus of the object, neither materialist nor mentalist approaches to material culture are adequate. Minds, agents, and objects may appear to be bounded entities, but they are in fact rarely isolated, each spilling over into the other across ‘‘fuzzy’’ boundaries (as explored through a number of examples). This notion of...

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6 Thinking Through: Meaning in Modern Material Culture

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pp. 107-132

In Perec’s novel Life, a User’s Manual there are many passages like the one above in which the human and nonhuman inhabitants of a Paris apartment block are described in infinite detail. This example is appropriate here both for its French authorship and for its minute focus on everyday objects in a Western industrial setting. Other French authors...

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7 Archaeological Case Study: Drinking Vessels in Minoan Crete

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pp. 133-166

We now follow through on the ideas developed in previous chapters and apply them to bodies of archaeological material. The aim, of course, is to reveal some of the ways in which meanings in past material culture may be accessible to us. There are obvious challenges...

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8 Conclusions

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pp. 167-170

Nearly fifty years ago Gilbert Simondon reacted in these forceful terms against the general tendency in Western culture to dichotomize society and technology, mind and matter, human and machine. Simondon was something of a rare breed, a philosopher with an almost archaeological concern for objects and techniques. Yet, falling in the cracks between...

Notes

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pp. 171-181

Bibliography

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pp. 183-197

Index

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pp. 199-202