“Bullet holes bring reality“: The significance of things in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict
Dr. Elizabeth Crooke
University of Ulster, UK

A recent visitor to the Museum of Free Derry in Northern Ireland wrote only four words on a response card: “bullet holes bring reality”. This visitor was referring to a jacket with holes caused by bullets shot at the person wearing the item. In the museum there are a number of objects that bare the traces of the conflict: clothing with damage where the bullet entered and exited the body and cloth soaked with a victim's blood. Even the building is scarred with the effects of conflict, the outer walls also bearing bullet damage. The subject of this lecture is the impact of and responses to objects associated with the conflict in Northern Ireland through consideration of how people have identified with and used such objects. Drawing upon a specific collection, as well as key ideas in material culture studies literature, it is an exploration of how we understand the meanings of things. Within the context of the Northern Ireland conflict, the discussion reflects upon how a selection of artefacts are used, understood, and displayed. It applies the literature that evaluates why we need things and the social and cultural meanings of artefacts to explore of the power and symbolism of objects, the social agency of object, and the importance of objects at times of loss or transition.

Research into the history of material culture
Ruth-E. Mohrmann
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany

My paper will deal with the developments in historically-orientated ethnological material culture research since the 1950s, especially in Germany historical Sachkulturforschung. The status and perspectives of the historical study of material culture in European ethnology will be brought into focus from the aspects of cultural anthropology and the wider context of the material turn.

The natural order is decay: The home as an ephemeral art project
Stephen Harold Riggins
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

Fieldwork in the Living Room: An Auto-ethnographic Essay, which I published earlier in my career, was an attempt to provide a systematic methodology for gathering information about the relationship between the self and objects displayed in homes. The present paper is an effort to update my methodology in view of advances that have been made in recent years in material culture studies which show that my perspective was limited to some extent by the uniqueness of the case study I used to illustrate my research. Formal ethics approval was also not required when I wrote Fieldwork in the Living Room. Today, however, the ethics of most social science investigations in Canada involving contact with human subjects must be formally approved by a university committee. The procedures which might be followed in order to obtain approval for an invasive research project about domestic artefacts are outlined. In conclusion, the revised methodology is illustrated with a case study of the apartment of a young artist and writer influenced by the 1970s punk subculture.

Pots and stories
Joanna Sofaer
University of Southampton, UK

The bowl is a common vessel type in the European Bronze Age found in both settlement and cemetery contexts. This paper explores how bowls may have been used to tell stories (more specifically cosmological myths) from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age in the Pannonian region (modern day Hungary and northern Croatia).

Over this period, changes in the relationship between the shape and decoration of bowls show a shift in emphasis from two-dimensional to three-dimensional use of the vessel surface. This can be understood in terms of the development of design principles that allowed the presentation of common Bronze Age motifs, such as the sun and the wheel, through vessel form as well as surface decoration. Pots were thus used as mnemonics for wider cosmological notions. Middle and Late Bronze Age developments in vessel form also created possibilities for the display of stories in new and overt ways through hanging vessels on walls. Moreover, changes in the location of motifs on bowls provided opportunities for the concealing or revelation of stories depicted by them. Finally, if pots were used to tell stories, then this places potters in the role of story-tellers.


Session I: 1
Home: The dynamics of materialities and meanings in migratory and transitional contexts

This session focuses on symbolic objects, artefacts and materials that are related to home and respectively to meaningful stories, memories and values connected with home-environments. The authors of the papers treat home as a dynamic and contextual concept, exploring the significance of material culture in connection with national and diasporic identities or in regard with changing values related to home as a house and as an idea in the domestic context.

Session I: 2

The papers of this session will discuss the meanings associated with the development of specific technologies throughout the history. As such, this panel will contextualise the theme of the conference in a temporal frame and will examine the different material and abstract continuities and discontinuities that are enabled through technological developments. The papers in this session will cover various technological developments from the Stone Age, the Mediaeval period, and the recent era.

Session II: 1
Landscape: Changing meanings of rural and urban landscapes

The papers of this session stress the importance of material culture in the context of rural and urban landscapes. Via changes in power relations, socio-economic and cultural conditions, the meanings of various landscapes are discussed. Case studies from Estonian rural areas, Helsinki, Kaliningrad and Yoshkar-Ola are used to elaborate the meaning-construction of different landscapes.

Session II: 2
Things designed by man

The papers of this session present and discuss material things as representations of peoples’ and cultures’ desires and visions, as well as powerful actors that take part in constructing new needs, values and identities. Thus, the material product is viewed as a result of social practice that conveys meanings framed by and operating within the socio-cultural conditions of the society. In the presentations, the issue of why and how the practical and symbolic values of things are constructed and perceived is examined. At the same time, the theoretical and methodological ‘toolbox’ for the interpretation of design and its products is taken under consideration.

Session III: 1
Waste knot: Semio-scapes of inclusion and exclusion

The key themes of this session include the boundary markers of exclusivity and inclusivity, as well as the dynamics of waste which include adding, removing or neutralising value. The selected papers – influenced by recent advances in semiotic, literary and cultural theory – question the ways in which these themes (as amorphous categories and yet as ubiquitous entities) can usefully embrace the embodied matter of 'glocal' sense-scapes. They also ask how such topics are implicitly or explicitly tied up with approaches grounded in the studies of material culture.

Session III: 2
Construction of identity through material objects

This session addresses the ways how material objects, such as archaeological findings, consumer goods, personal things, and handmade souvenirs, have been used and represented in various contexts. Four case studies analyse the meanings attributed to material artefacts in the process of shaping the identity of middle class consumers in the 18th century North American British colonies, constructing Finnishness through archaeological writings of the 1870s, representing marginal objects in Victorian-era English fiction, and expressing the values and messages of the present-day souvenir makers in rural Southern Estonia.

Session IV: 1
Museum and heritage: Things to be remembered

The meanings and values of various things are discussed in this session. What was the meaning of those things to their users and what is the meaning of the same things to us today? The questions of collecting ‘vanishing exemplars of a dying culture’, the meaning-construction of museum exhibits and their heritage value are considered. What is to be remembered from vanishing cultures in past and present?

Session IV: 2
Special objects telling special stories: Question of materialities and contexts

The session stresses the importance of material objects and methodologies of analysing them in different areas of culture studies. It explores the possibilities of how and what various materialities can tell about the society, the groups and individuals within it. The papers also discuss different meanings that objects can attain and express in different contexts. The emphasis is put on specific artefacts in different cultural contexts.

Session V: 1
Media and materiality

The session brings together four papers in different research fields exploring questions related to media as material culture, as well as the analysis of discourses of materiality represented in mediums.

Ene Kõresaar addresses the question of how the strategies of dealing with material shortages in the era of ‘mature socialism’ have been represented and what kind of images of things are presented in journalistic recollections of ‘the good old Soviet time’. Roosmarii Kurvits focuses on the newspaper as a material container of information. Rowan Mackay discusses the relationship of tangible and intangible things within a culture on the example of political advertising. Indrek Ibrus presents a theoretical discussion of the modern evolutionary dynamics of media systems, using the development of the mobile web as a case study.

Session V: 2 Textile

The session brings together four papers in different research fields exploring questions related to the meanings and functions of clothing. The papers discuss design and crafts not only as means of decoration or work methods but also as ways of thinking and living. Kirsti Salo-Mattila explores the embroidered royal gift as a political symbol and an embodiment of design ideas. Carine Kool discusses the use of embroidery as a writing in the field of contemporary art. Ieva Pigozne reveals the symbolic meaning and functions of clothing and Maria Cristache presents a case study of the community of vendors and buyers of vintage fashion.


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