Exploring Materiality and Connectivity in Anthropology and Beyond

Edited by Philipp Schorch, Martin Saxer, and Marlen Elders

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ISBN: 9781787357495

Publication: March 30, 2020

Exploring Materiality and Connectivity in Anthropology and Beyond provides a new look at the old anthropological concern with materiality and connectivity. It understands materiality not as defined property of some-thing, nor does it take connectivity as merely a relation between discrete entities. Somewhat akin to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, it sees materiality and connectivity as two interrelated modes in which an entity is, or more precisely – is becoming, in the world. The question, thus, is how these two modes of becoming relate and fold into each other.

Throughout the four-year research process that led to this book, the authors approached this question not just from a theoretical perspective; taking the suggestion of 'thinking through things' literally and methodologically seriously, the first two workshops were dedicated to practical, hands-on exercises working with things. From these workshops a series of installations emerged, straddling the boundaries of art and academia. These installations served as artistic-academic interventions during the final symposium and are featured alongside the other academic contributions to this volume. Throughout this process, two main themes emerged and structure Part II, Movement and Growth, and Part III, Dissolution and Traces, of the present volume, respectively. Part I, Conceptual Grounds, consists of two chapters offering conceptual takes on things and ties – one from anthropology and one from archaeology.

As interrelated modes of becoming, materiality and connectivity make it necessary to coalesce things and ties into thing~ties – an insight toward which the chapters and interventions came from different sides, and one in which the initial proposition of the editors still shines through. Throughout the pages of this volume, we invite the reader to travel beyond imaginaries of a universe of separate planets united by connections, and to venture with us instead into the thicket of thing~ties in which we live.

Philipp Schorch is Professor of Museum Anthropology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Germany, where he leads an ERC project on ‘Indigeneities in the 21st Century’. Philipp is lead co-author of Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses (University of Hawai’i Press, In Print), and co-editor of Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Curatorship (Manchester University Press, 2019).

Martin Saxer leads the ERC project ‘Remoteness & Connectivity: Highland Asia in the World’ at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Germany. Martin is co-editor of the special issue The Return of Remoteness: Insecurity, Isolation and Connectivity in the New World Disorder (Social Anthropology 2019) and the Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands (2018). He has made three documentary films and co-curated the exhibition ‘Highland Flotsam – Strandgut am Berg’ (

Marlen Elders completed her MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology with a thesis on exploring aesthetics and sensory perception, experimenting with creative research methods. Since 2016, she is part of the research project ‘Remoteness & Connectivity: Highland Asia in the World’, currently working on the exhibition ‘Highland Flotsam – Strandgut am Berg’ ( and her first documentary film 'Murghab'.

Introduction: Materiality and Connectivity

Martin Saxer and Philipp Schorch

Part 1    Conceptual Grounds

1. In the Gathering Shadows of Material Things

Tim Ingold

2. Doing/Changing Things/Us

Philipp W. Stockhammer

Part 2    Movement and Growth

3. Becoming Imperial: The Politicisation of the Gift in Atlantic Africa

Julia Binter

4. How Pilgrimage Souvenirs Turn to Religious Remittances and Powerful Medicines

Catrien Notermans and Jean Kommers

5. Invocating the Gods or the Apotheosis of the Barbie Doll

Natalie Göltenboth

6. Stallions of the Indian Ocean

Srinivas Reddy

7. Labelling, Packaging, Scanning: Paths and Diversions of Mobile Phones in the Andes

Juliane Müller

8. Establishing Intimacy through Mobile Phone Connections

Anna-Maria Walter               

Part 3    Dissolution and Traces

9. Smoky Relations: Beyond Dichotomies of Substance on the Tibetan Plateau

Gillian G. Tan

10. What Remains: The Things that Fall to the Side of Everyday Life

Marc Higgin

11. Apocalyptic Sublimes and the Recalibration of Distance: Doing Art-Anthropology in Post-Disaster Japan

Jennifer Clarke

12. Towards a Fragmented Ethnography? Walking Along Debris in Armero, Colombia

Lorenzo Granada

13. Remembering and Non-Remembering Among the Yanomami

Gabriele Herzog-Schröder

14. The Matter of Erasure: Making Room for Utopia at Nonoalco-Tlatelolco, Mexico City

Adam Kaasa

15. Refugee Life Jackets Thrown Off but Not Away: Connecting Materialities in Upcycling Initiatives

Elia Petridou

16. Tamga Tash: A Tale of Stones, Stories, and Travelling Immobiles

Lisa Francesca Rail


Format: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

282 Pages

41 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2020

ISBN: 9781787357495

Publication: March 30, 2020

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