Things and Us: Ancient and Contemporary Material Culture (ARC3120)

StaffDr Marisa Lazzari - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to develop an appreciation of the complex ways in which human life is interwoven with objects at various levels, from the personal and subjective to the wider collective and even global scales. It aims at deepening students understanding of the principles and methodologies involved in interpreting such complex entanglements, analysing and theorising related information. The module aims at developing a critically aware understanding of the human-non-human relationships in a variety of settings, in order to highlight commonalities and contrasts between modern and ancient lives.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Analyse and critique the different theories and perspectives developed to account for the mutuality between people and things
  • 2. Critically assess the relevance of these frameworks in specific case studies

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Critically reflect on the complex relationship between people and things across a variety of contexts and time periods
  • 4. Integrate interdisciplinary approaches to build object interpretations

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Compare and synthesise opposing views on complex topics
  • 6. Prepare and deliver class presentations, prepare appropriate class handouts
  • 7. Show initiative and originality in tackling and solving research problems
  • 8. Take part in group discussions, posing pertinent questions
  • 9. Organise work efficiently with respect to deadlines

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction: interdisciplinary approaches to material culture
  • Modern material culture
  • The enchantment of technology
  • Meaning: how objects signify
  • The Agency of things
  • Object biographies
  • Workshop – The memories of things
  • Artefacts, taskscapes and landscape
  • Making things & identities: tradition and change in craft skills learning

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities189 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1One workshop
Guided independent study131Guided independent study, including reading, research and preparation for classes, presentation and assignments.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop participation1 hour8Oral feedback from module instructor and peers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual presentation3015 minutes1-2, 5-7, 9Mark and written comments
Essay/project702000 words1-4, 7, 9Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual presentationWritten presentation 1500 words1-2,5-7,9Referral/deferral period
Essay/projectEssay/project 2000 words1-4,7 9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Appadurai, A.1988. The Social Life of Things. CUP.
  • Buchli, V., ed. 2002. The Material Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg.
  • Dant, T. 2004. Materiality and society. Open University Press
  • Gell, A. 1998. Art and Agency. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Graves-Brown, P., ed. 2000. Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture. London: Routledge.
  • Henare, A. and M. Holbrad . 2006. Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically. Routledge.
  • Ingold, T. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge.
  • Knappett, C. 2005. Thinking Through Material Culture: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Philadelphia: Penn Press.
  • Latour, B. 2007. Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network theory. Routledge.
  • Lemonnier, P. 2002. Technological choices: Transformations in Material Cultures since the Neolithic. Routledge.
  • Miller, D. 1998. Material Cultures: Why Things Matter. Routledge
  • Miller, D. 2009. Stuff. Polity Press.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

February 2012

Last revision date


Key words search

Material Culture, Archaeology, Agency