Historical Research Workshop

History of Things: Essays on Material Culture

The most striking aspect of this text for me was the range of things that have potential to be analyzed for historical research.  Items like a house, a meal, and a tattooed body are things I hadn’t considered as possible avenues of research, but once reading this text, it realized that there is essentially no limit to items that can be useful for research.  Another profound claim that the text advances is that cultures are less self conscious when they make material items than they are when they write documents.  Furthermore, that art more directly reflects the beliefs of the society that produced it (than seemingly intentional or factual descriptions) was thought provoking.  It seems to follow logically from the concept that people (or societies) are less self conscious when producing material items.  The method for analyzing items as fictions rather than empirical objects synthesizes the ideas that societies are less self conscious when making objects, and that therefore, the art is a more direct representation of societal values as this method allows more room for analysis.  Material items have much more potential for research than I had thought prior to this text, and I am now wondering if there are any materials that I can use for my tentative thesis topic of American exceptionalism.

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