By Stephanie Wynne-Jones
A fabric Culture makes a speciality of gadgets in Swahili society in the course of the elaboration of an process that sees either humans and issues as stuck up in webs of mutual interplay. It for that reason presents either a brand new theoretical intervention in a number of the key subject matters in fabric tradition experiences, together with the organisation of gadgets and the methods they have been associated with social identities, in the course of the improvement of the suggestion of a biography of perform.
These theoretical discussions are explored throughout the archaeology of the Swahili, at the Indian Ocean coast of japanese Africa. This coast used to be domestic to a sequence of "stonetowns" (containing coral structure) from the 9th century advert onwards, of which Kilwa Kisiwani is the main recognized, thought of the following in local context. those stonetowns have been deeply inquisitive about maritime exchange, performed between a various, Islamic population.
This booklet means that the Swahili are a highly-significant case learn for exploration of the connection among gadgets and other people long ago, because the society used to be constituted and outlined via a selected fabric surroundings. extra, it is strongly recommended that this dating was once subtly varied than in different components, and especially from western types that dominate triumphing research. The case is made for another kind of materiality, maybe universal to the broader Indian Ocean international, with an emphasis on redistribution and circulate instead of at the accumulation of wealth. The reader will for this reason achieve familiarity with a little-known and engaging tradition, in addition to appreciating the ways in which non-western examples can upload to our theoretical models.
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Extra info for A material culture : consumption and materiality on the coast of precolonial east Africa
Yet the notion of historical memory working through material items can also be brought into considerations of object networks, and the movement of objects and their changing contexts can form important links or entanglements between separate social arenas and groups (Strathern 2004; Thomas 1991). In each, the focus is on the object itself, rather than on the larger society created and experienced through myriad material interactions. This bounded approach is somewhat superseded by the group of approaches united by ‘Actor–Network Theory’ (ANT) or ‘material semiotics’ (Law 2007).
The basic contention here is that intentionality and agency must be separated. Humans might be the only actors in a social network with intentionality, but this does not make them more or less likely to imprint their intentions. It is more difficult to conceive the form of object agency put forward by material semiotics than the secondary agency proposed as part of Gell’s work. Indeed, some argue that it profoundly misses the point of what social life is. Yet what is useful in these ideas is the focus on the networks, or interactions, of humans with the material world.
In this volume, I take a slightly different approach, drawing on the networks or contexts created by person–object interactions. Although this owes more to the ideas of Gell than to material semiotic theory, it is in line with the latter’s advocacy of exploring the ways that things and people are bound up into networks of action. The term materiality is used here as a way of referring to the ‘thingness’ of objects and settings (as per Meskell 2004; Sofaer 2007), rather than to imply the existence of primary agency residing in the object world of the precolonial Swahili coast.