Material Culture and the Domestic

This paper studies two distinct aspects of material culture, from a domestic point of view as well as a cultural process to form memory. The research first introduces the reader to material culture and defines in depth its features and characteristics. The study then moves on to describe the nature of domestic material culture and its importance from a sociological perspective. This paper will also discuss how material culture aids in the process of forming memory. Also, each area of study both illustrates the concept of ‘basic premise of material culture approach by Ian Woodward with the help of case studies as examples. Contemporary study of material culture is considered as one of the intriguing branches of study for many socialist at the moment, and the focal point of this study.

I – Introduction to Material Culture

The social definition of material culture is the association of material artifacts to social relations of a human group or community. In simple terms, material culture can be defined as the objects that people use in their daily life, and the significance of such material objects in their lives. Material culture is the study of why individuals from different cultures consume certain objects (i.e. products) and the importance of displaying or using such objects in their daily lives. Individuals from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds are prone to use various objects that differ on many levels of technology, modernity, and often consume the same objects for different uses. Therefore, studying a culture’s affiliation to materiality is essential for social scientists, as well as historians to study the social and cultural attitudes of a certain group. Often studying a culture’s correlation to materially can be considered a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be conferred. (Donald, 1991)

UNESCO (1975) described the presence and importance of material heritage in cultures and proclaimed, “Cultural property is a basic element of people’s identity and (being depends on having)”. Therefore it is assumed that an individual’s association to and awareness of objects are socially and culturally dependent. Investigating on material culture also helps historians and archaeologists study past societies and explore the material culture of such historical communities through the remains of the material objects found. Also, protecting cultural heritage of documenting and studying material culture of certain communities can help empower minorities and their culture. (Giere, 2004)

Material culture pertains to the knowledge and material relics of a human group. Studying such objects that are closely related to survival measurements are of apparent significance. However, studying the material culture has also been imperative in investigating ritual, art, music, dance and symbolism. Ethnographers in the past, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, while touring in both North America and Europe habitually incorporated documentation on material culture in their work on pre-industrialized societies. Gradually, during the 1920s and 1970s, material culture progressed as the domain of the archaeologist and museum curators. (Giere, 2004)

Contemporarily, the increasing significance surrounding modern material culture has developed into an imperative feature for many socialists’ schools. It has also emerged into an integral part of education as it provides students a novel viewpoint on how their performance influences society and the environment. Recent developments in the study of material culture have provided assessments of “consumerism” and a recent trend of “throw-away culture”. Consumerism is referred to as a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. A throw-away culture is less prone to recycling and eco-friendly methods of consumption. These two phenomena have affected the present material culture enormously and have established a diverse material culture system for many different communities and individuals. (Tversky & Marsh, 2000)

Forms of Memory

Material culture inspires human cognitive memory through classifying certain objects, its use, significance, and application, to a particular social group that helps identify certain characteristics of that group and allows them to maintain present or historical presence or distinctiveness.  (Dawkins, 1996)

Donald (1991) proposed the three different cognitive stages that allowed material culture to form as part of the human memory. Following are essential components of material culture that will help explain the process of forming memory through its use. It has been proposed in regards to material culture that we judge the entire material system, as an association of interface that environs a material item, including intangible objects such as ideas and behaviors associated with that item. Therefore, it is considered that the complete material systems advance is concerned with the total contextualization of an item. (Dawkins, 1996)









同时,越来越多的现代意义周围的物质文化已经发展成为一个必不可少的功能,许多社会主义者的学校。它也成为教育的一个有机组成部分为它为学生提供一个新颖的观点对他们的表现如何影响社会和环境。最近的事态发展的物质文化的研究提供了评估“消费主义”和最近的趋势,“一次性”文化。消费主义,是指作为一个社会和经济秩序的基础上,系统建立和培养希望购买的商品和服务的更大的数额。一次性文化是不容易回收和环保的消费方式。这些现象已经影响到现在的物质文化很大,已经建立了一个不同的文化系统,许多不同的社区和个人。(Tver sky和沼泽,2000)