Economic Anthropology Seminar

I’ve always been interested in economic anthropology, and think it’s a field unjustly neglected by economists.  The Nobel Committee’s recognition of Elinor Ostrom, whose work is based significantly on ethnographic field-work, will hopefully get more economists interested.

I also think the field also has a lot to offer libertarians. Capitalism is frequently charged with creating inauthentic desires within people. We tend to deny this by saying that expensive luxury goods really do improve the consumer’s material well-being. I think a better answer is to point to the ubiquity of material production and exchange aimed at social, rather than material material ends, across human societies. You say crass consumerism; I say culture.

Anyway, that’s all a preface to passing this along, which came in my email today:

Research Seminar

(Anthropology – Job Applicant)

2:00pm – 3:00pm WEDNESDAY 21 October 2009

A4 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury

All those attending this seminar are invited to morning tea and discussion after the seminar in the Sociology and Anthropology Common Room, Level 3 Link Block, University of Canterbury.

Creating art, linking culture: social relations and material culture in Samoa

Tobias Sperlich (University of Regina)

Abstract:
The importance that objects play in the creation and maintenance of social relations in Samoa has long been recognized in the ethnology of Samoa and, in fact, all of Polynesia and much of the Pacific. However, many of these studies have focused on the use and exchange of objects among few individuals and relatively small, geographically close groups (seen on such occasions as funerals or marriages). The use and exchange of objects between larger and geographically more remote groups can, however, create similar social and political ramifications, as the work of scholars such as Tapsell has shown. The concept of objects as ‘ambassadors’ has also gained currency among museum specialists dealing with issues of repatriation and the proper care for objects from the Pacific. In this paper, I will discuss how, from a Samoan perspective, objects are seen as essential in the formation and preservation of social ties between individuals, groups and entire countries. Using examples from my past research and from ongoing projects, I will illustrate how objects mediate the distance created between people by geography and history.

All those attending this seminar are invited to morning tea and discussion after the seminar in the Sociology and Anthropology Common Room, Level 3 Link Block, University of Canterbury.

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