Cultural sociology, materiality and object

Cultural sociology, materiality and object-relations. Reframing modes of
cultural understanding through the study of things.
Dr Ian Woodward
The frontiers of social theory and cultural inquiry have been advanced by the
affordances of object-oriented analyses and, more critically, a material ontology.
Objects, things and materials are the stuff of new ecologies of meaning and
practice, whereby social structures, global networks, cultural ideals, social values
and human bodies have been shown to be materially fashioned and constituted.
Studies of object ecologies, material culture and things have challenged how we
think about the nature of mundane experiences, modes of social communication
and performance, and networks of social affiliation. In all of these fields, the
material basis of social life has been uncovered and emphasised. In this mode of
theorising, the links between materiality, emotion, imagination and the
unconscious are emphasised, where material agents are realized as central to
expressing and transitioning ideals, symbols, and discourses. In the cultural
tradition, we need to look toward, but also beyond the innovative field of techno
and science-based object studies to understand objects in their expanded
cultural sense: as material, concrete expressions of cultural ideals, desires and
fantasies. Consistent with the recent expansion and influence of materiality and
object studies across disciplines but focused on cultural sociology, the core
theoretical theme of this paper will be the links between objects and social
practices, emotion, imagination and the unconscious. On a more expansive note,
the paper seeks to bring matters of symbolisation, the unconscious, and emotion
to accounts of materiality as constructive of social and cultural power.