Wednesday, 13 October 2010

'The Tale of the Kettle: Odyssey of an Intercultural Object' by Laurier Turgeon, Laval University

'The uses to which the object was put in the culture of origin are reviewed; its transcultural pathway is retracted; and, finally, its new functions in the culture of reception are identified.  The approach is modelled on the so-called historical geographic method developed in the study of folktales. It is assumed that the material object, no less than the orally transmitted tale, bears the mark of the use made of it, and situating a single object in the context of its production and reception seems to be the most reliable way to understand the role of objects in the construction of cultural identity.'

'Objects, no less than people possess a cultural life.  Instead of dwelling on the techniques of their production or on their exchange value, i prefer to reconstruct trajectories of object to find out how they are used in the shaping of group identities.  The study of objects avoids, to some degree, the confines of the classical monograph which tends to limit the field of observation to a single group, obscuring its competitive relations with other groups.'

'Following the pathways of objects through time and space, from one group to another, permits us to demarcate the space within which contact has occurred and to better understand gradations of meaning as we resituate things in their cultural contexts.  The study of objects allows us access to the nonverbal expression of intercultural relations, to the concrete actions of daily life that at times remain unencumbered by words.  Words, as we know, do not say everything; they frequently deceive, or conceal more than they show, or even deflect or alter meaning.'

1 comment:

  1. The social relationships grouped around the act of making/drinking tea, conceal themselves behind the act itself deflecting the meaning of the object and interaction. A psychological and sociological analysis of tea drinking would be a more appropriate strategy to determine the language and significance of a tea cup as an everyday object. The cultural coding is the only thing that can truly define the object as what it really is, acknowledging its connections with communication and intimacy above its physical presence.