MY MATERIAL WORLD

My Material World was a project created for ANTH 240: Visual Anthropology, a second year course at Capilano University in Vancouver, BC. The project culminated in a poster presentation, displayed on November 26, 2012, and a final paper. The poster presented 8 photographs in a particular arrangement intended to communicate a specific message. Numbers and captions were used to organize the photos, and students were asked to consider the display and try to guess the theme/message. After consideration, the back of the poster revealed further information: titles and descriptions fore each photo, as well as a brief summary of the idea behind the display.

 

There were two objectives for the the project. The first was for students to think critically about how display strategies are employed to create and convey knowledge to an audience. The second aim was to analyze the role of material culture in society; to examine how cultural artifacts are instrumental in shaping people’s activity and communicating information about identity.

The topic of this project intended to resonate across lines of difference (nation, culture, age, gender, and socio-economic status).

Pyramid
Hawaiian Grave
Remembrance Day
Skeletons
Memorial
Recipe Book
Urn
Locket

Theme
The theme of this project is: Remembering the Dead through Material Culture. Here, eight photographs are arranged in a specific order to communicate this theme, ranging from large-scale cultural acknowledgments to individualized and personal ways of remembering loved ones through/with material culture. The first three photographs suggest large-scale cultural norms for honouring and remembering the dead. The second two photographs are meant to aid in transitioning attention towards smaller group and community involved remembrance. The final three photographs are arranged to communicate personalized and intimate aspects involved in the use of material culture for remembering the dead.

Thoughts

Numerous places and people around the world demonstrate an importance placed in maintaining some form of connection with passed loved ones, largely through material culture which serves as a point of connection through time and space. By keeping a piece, or representation, of loved ones (symbolically or physically), a comfort is offered. Across cultures there is a wide range in the use of material culture to remember the dead: there are culturally acknowledged and traditional displays, ceremonies and norms, as well as personal and intimate ways that are significant to individuals. These various artifacts affect behaviour and emotions in people, which emphasizes the importance and meaning they hold.

 

The overall interpretation of this project was consistent with the ideas presented. According to student observations shared via questionnaires (2012), the display demonstrated: 

"that we long to keep and cherish different forms of material culture in order to remember the dead. We pass on recipes to the younger generation and the dead are never forgotten as they are still important."

"Religious beliefs are evident by the way we bury our dead."

"Different ways that people of all ages, genders and ethnicity cope, honour and remember those who have passed away are shown through the sequence of photographs as well as how people celebrate the dead in both a personal and shared way such as Remembrance Day versus using a mother’s cookbook.”