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Distributed Objects: Meaning and Mattering after Alfred Gell

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Distributed Objects

Meaning and Mattering after Alfred Gell

Edited by Liana Chua and Mark Elliott

232 pages, 25 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-744-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (March 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78238-913-2 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (March 2015)

eISBN 978-0-85745-743-1 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“…profound scholarly reflections on the distributed effects of Alfred Gell’s endeavor to identify an anthropological theory of …a captivating pendant piece to Gell’s original publication. Itis not meant as a guidebook to understanding Gell’s work; rather it is a collection of complex studies that capture distinct engagements with Gell’s ideas around an anthropology of art.“  ·  Material World

“Chua and Elliott have pulled together an excellent volume to address a real problem in the interdisciplinary discussions of art… While I think the volume is most useful for those teaching arts-oriented disciplines, it is also a valuable volume for those thinking through curatorial choices in regard to ethnographic and art objects.”  ·  Museum Anthropology


One of the most influential anthropological works of the last two decades, Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency is a provocative and ambitious work that both challenged and reshaped anthropological understandings of art, agency, creativity and the social. It has become a touchstone in contemporary artifact-based scholarship. This volume brings together leading anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians and other scholars into an interdisciplinary dialogue with Art and Agency, generating a timely re-engagement with the themes, issues and arguments at the heart of Gell’s work, which remains salient, and controversial, in the social sciences and humanities. Extending his theory into new territory – from music to literary technology and ontology to technological change – the contributors do not simply take stock, but also provoke, critically reassessing this important work while using it to challenge conceptual and disciplinary boundaries.

Liana Chua is Lecturer in Anthropology at Brunel University London. She works on conversion to Christianity, ethnic citizenship, landscape, resettlement and conservation in Malaysian Borneo, and on artifact-oriented theory and museology more broadly. She is the author of The Christianity of Culture: Conversion, Ethnic Citizenship, and the Matter of Religion in Malaysian Borneo (2012).

Mark Elliott is Senior Curator for Anthropology at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Trained as an anthropologist, he now works across archaeological and ethnographic collections, and was co-curator, with Anita Herle and Rebecca Empson, of Assembling Bodies: Art, Science & Imagination (2009-10). His research and teaching interests include histories of museum practice in South Asia and Britain, and visual and material representations of Adivasi peoples in India.

Subject: General Anthropology General Cultural Studies Museum Studies


List of Illustrations
List of Contributors

Introduction: Adventures in the Art Nexus
Liana Chua and Mark Elliott

Chapter 1. Threads of Thought: Reflections on Art and Agency
Susanne Küchler

Chapter 2. Technologies of Routine and Enchantment
Chris Gosden

Chapter 3. Figuring out Death: Sculpture and Agency at the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the Tomb of the First Emperor of China
Jeremy Tanner

Chapter 4. The Network of Standard Stoppages
Alfred Gell

Chapter 5. Gell’s Duchamp/Duchamp’s Gell
Simon Dell

Chapter 6. Music: Ontology, Agency, Creativity
Georgina Born

Chapter 7. Literary Art and Agency? Gell and the Magic of the Early Modern Book
Warren Boutcher

Chapter 8. Art, Performance and Time¹s Presence: Reflections on Temporality in Art and Agency
Eric Hirsch

Chapter 9. Epilogue
Nicholas Thomas


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