What is material culture?

Hello, and welcome to the Folklore & Fiction newsletter. In this edition, I'm writing about material culture with help from the Library of Congress American Folklife Center, scholars Judith Farquhar and Simon Bronner, The Joy of Vegan Baking, and the 2005 science fiction film Serenity. I'm also discussing the use of material culture in storycraft and providing you with an exercise on the topic.

Folkloric Discussion of Material Culture

Folkloric studies of material culture address the design, manufacture, use, and meaning of things; folk art, food, monuments and tombstones, textiles, tools, toys, vehicles, vernacular architecture, and so on. Folklorists also care about variations in makers and groups, variations over time and place, and issues of agency, conflict, and power as they relate to these things. Above all else, we care about the human context in which an item of material culture is situated, and we strive to understand the item and context together (‘Material Culture’ 2010).

Cast-Iron Pan of Cornbread on Stove

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