Marie-Pierre Julien and Céline Rosselin explore the issues at stake in the close physical relationship that people have with objects, proposing that this seemingly quotidian and frequently non-verbal process is a means of constructing human beings as subjects. What is at stake in material culture is not only the production of physical environments by actors but the effects of these environments in shaping people as specific kinds of social entities.
Julie Bellemare relates the imperial patronage of cloisonné objects for religious and secular purposes in eighteenth-century China to an increased taste for colorful and dazzling surfaces. She uses the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu and Alfred Gell to unpack the significance of this technical enchantment, and to clarify and complicate questions of taste, class, and ethnic identity in the Chinese production and consumption of cloisonné. Bellemare argues that the non-Chinese origins of the medium made it adaptable to the evolving needs of display and an ideal canvas for imperial decoration.
Jean-Pierre Warnier offers us a précis on the aims of the Matière à Penser working group. The French term — ‘Matière à Penser’ — translates into ‘food for thought.’ The group has developed a cutting edge approach to studying “bodily-and-material-culture” in motion by synthesizing a variety of theories regarding the body, subjectivity, and material culture.