New Book Chronicle

By Hummler, Madeleine | Antiquity, December 2006 | Go to article overview

New Book Chronicle


Hummler, Madeleine, Antiquity


As recent chronicles have concentrated on sites, landscapes, specific regions or issues, artefacts have so far received little attention here. It is time to redress the balance, with the fortuitous arrival on Antiquity's shelves of a series of books that have objects at their centre.

The secret life of objects

NATHAN SCHLAGER (ed.). Marcel Mauss: Techniques, Technology and Civilisation. xiv+178 pages, 10 illustrations. 2006. New York & Oxford: Durkheim Press/Berghahn Books; 1-57181-662-3 hardback.

CHRIS CAVLE. Objects: Reluctant Witnesses to the Past. xviii+266 pages, 59 illustrations, 4 tables. 2006. London & New York: Routledge; 0-415-30589-6 paperback 18.99 [pounds sterling].

J. KATERINA DVORKOVA (ed.). EuroREA: (Re)construction and Experiment in Archaeology--European Platform, Volume 2-2005. 160 pages, numerous b&w & colour illustrations. 2005. Eindhoven: European Exchange on Archaeological Research and Communication/Society for Experimental Archaeology Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic; 80-239-5559-4 paperback 8 [euro].

LISA FRINK & KATHRYN WEEDMAN (ed.). Gender and Hide Production. xiv+282 pages, 30 illustrations, 8 tables. Paperback edition 2006 (first published in 2005). Lanham (MD) & Oxford: AltaMira: 0-7591-0851-X paperback 22.99 [pounds sterling].

JUDITH A. HABICHT-MAUCHE, SUZANNE L. ECKERT & DEBORAH L. HUNTLEY (ed.). The Social Life of Pots: Glaze Wares and Cultural Dynamics in the Southwest AD 1250-1680. xii+324 pages, 42 illustrations, 26 tables. 2006. Tucson (AZ): University of Arizona Press; 0-8165-2457-2 hardback $50.

KENNETH G. HIRTH. Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico. 2006. xviii+378 pages, 171 illustrations, 124 tables. Salt Lake City (UT): University of Utah Press; 0-87480-847-2 hardback $60.

ELEANOR ROBSON, LUKE TREADWELL & CHRIS GOSDEN (ed.). Who Owns Objects?: The Ethics and Politics of Collecting Cultural Artefacts. xvii+ 142 pages, 5 illustrations. 2006. Oxford: Oxbow; 1-84217-233-6 paperback 24 [pounds sterling].

ANA FILIPA VRDOLJAK. International Law, Museums and the Return of Cultural Objects. xxxvii+345 pages, 26 illustrations. 2006. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 0-521-84142-9 hardback 55 [pounds sterling] & $99.

Let us start with a dose of theory, with Marcel Mauss' writings on Techniques, Technology and Civilisation. Collected by NATHAN SCHLANGER who contributes an illuminating introductory essay, as well as, with others, translations of Mauss's ideas, this book is an excellent start to a new series, the 'Histories of Archaeology', published by Berghahn Books. As many of us are guilty of spouting ideas second- or third-hand, the series promises to be a valuable resource and a salutary reminder to go back to the roots. Who has not read references to habitus and seen it ascribed to Bourdieu alone? Well, Mauss, Durkheim's nephew and pupil (biography on p. 160), wrote mainly in the 1920s and 1930s, and his best-known text, 'Techniques of the Body' came out in 1935 when Bourdieu was five years old. We encounter the habitus on p. 80, after considerations on running and walking: 'Hence I have had this notion of the social nature of the habitus for many years. The word translates infinitely better than 'habitude' (habits or custom) ... These habits ... vary especially between societies, educations, proprieties and fashions, prestige. In them we should see the techniques and work of collective and individual practical reason rather than, in the ordinary way, merely the soul and its repetitive faculties'. But Schlanger notes (p. 19) that this is 'a philosophical concept revived by Mauss' (my emphasis) 'and subsequently developed by the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu'. There is much else besides in this collection: Mauss' views on Bergson, the rescuing of technique and technology from Durkheim, or the notion of 'l'homme total'. By putting Mauss' texts, some not much more than loose lecture notes of, it has to be said, uneven quality, between two hard covers, and providing context, including a set of contemporary photographs of Native Australians from the Cambridge Haddon collection, Schlanger has done us a good turn. …

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