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The Empire of Things

Regimes of Value and Material Culture
Edited by Fred R. Myers

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Overview

Representing a new wave of thinking about material culture studies-a topic long overdue for reevaluation-the essays in this volume take a fresh look at the relationship between material culture and exchange theory and illuminate the changing patterns of cultural flow in an increasingly global economy and the cultural differences registered in “regimes of value.” The Empire of Things includes an extensive interview with the late Annette B.Weiner, whose work on exchange theory still inspires contemporary material culture studies.

The contributors deconstruct the traditional opposition between “gift” and “commodity” and between supposedly; “alienable” and “inalienable” objects in ceremonies of exchange-whether on the island of Sumba or among middle-class shoppers in North London. They show how objects can become symbols of national identity, in cases ranging from artworks in Australia to lost body parts of past Mexican presidents. They reveal how the movement of objects through different contexts, across borders, or through art exhibitions exposes contradictions and shifting meanings for different constituencies.

Contributor Bios