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What is matter? Is it material or immaterial? Does matter need to be tangible? Do emotions and feelings fall within the definition of matter? These are some of the questions we discovered this week in Material Culture.

We all have an idea that matter is something we can touch and feel. When we see a play script we consider it to be matter because we can hold it in our hands – feel the tangibility of the paper. But when we see performers acting that same play we stop considering it as matter. Scientists usually define matter as anything having mass and that all objects are matter. But there’s more to the definition than just its quantifiable nature. Matter can be anything that can lead to a reaction – a performance, a tight hug, even a dream. Matter need not be materialistic. Its materiality and immateriality are equally significant.

A beautiful example of the nature between materiality and immateriality is the Pyramids of Egypt. Essentially they were built to protect the spirit of the bodies inside. Something very material was built in order to protect something very non-material. This shows that the idea of non-materiality is deeply routed with the idea of materiality – they are intertwined with one another and go hand in hand.

Marres & Lezaun (2011) talk of matter and the political subject with post-Foucauldian perspectives on material dimensions of citizenship and engagement wherein matter is treated as a tacit “constituting force in the organisation of collectives and are predominantly concerned with the fabrication of political subjects” They state that objects, subjects and materials acquire political capacities and individually are capable of enacting material participation. An interesting insight in their paper was Hawkins perspective of “how the object acquires the capacity to mediate matters of concern, from health to labour or environmental issues, but also how the mediation becomes an object of scrutiny and struggle – how the matter of the package comes to matter politically”.

Our task this week was to collect a few images of our object but in a different format and to understand the different underlying connotations of those forms. Since my personal object is a diary I’ve collected images of similar such diaries/ journals.

1. Diary Planner

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A diary planner is ideally used by entrepreneurs, politicians, doctors, professors, people from different walks of life. A person in the habit of recording and chronicling their activities are the main users of this kind of a planner. This image shows minimalism, neatness and discipline. All the objects are aligned neatly and belong to the same category of colour. I associate the connotation of this image with the feeling and need to be in control. The idea of control and power can be directly linked to the political subject “towards the micro-physical workings of modern governmentalities, the tiny, everyday, physical mechanisms of micro power that organise political subjectivity (Foucault as cited in Manoff 2004).

2. Scrapbook

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Scrapbooks can consist of various themes – family photographs, memories, travelling memoirs and so on. This image shows the archive of a newborn baby – photograph, newspaper clipping, hospital band – it shows an emotional archive; a need to document certain ‘firsts’ as a memory of a loved one.

3. Diary of Anne Frank

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The diary of Anne Frank is a classic example of a daily journal/ diary written by an individual about their emotions and situations.. Anne Frank recorded daily activities of her life while she was hiding with her family during the Nazi reign of the Netherlands. Her diary brought a great insight into the life of the Dutch during the Nazi occupation. I found this image particularly special because it shows the innocence of an adolescent girl despite the situations she was living in.

4. Wine Journal

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For those who take their wine seriously (and a lot of people do) a wine journal is as important as the next thing. It is used by wine connoisseurs, winemakers and students of wine. This image shows the various tasting notes a wine has to be defined in: colour, opaqueness, bouquet, texture etc. In the year 2013 I participated and completed Level 1 (Award in Wines) of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. For the brief time that I was studying I too had kept a wine journal in order to note down different tasting notes. Keeping a journal primarily aids in keeping track. Today people keep journals of many different themes – diet journal, running journal, diabetes journal and so on.

After studying my object in its different forms I am now able to understand the different subject-object relations that an object can have with an individual; and relate to its own political subjectivity.

References:

  • Manoff, M. (2004) ‘Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines’. Portal: Libraries and the Academy 4 (1), 9-25
  • Marres, N. and Lezaun, J. (2011) ‘Materials and Devices of the Public: An Introduction’. Economy and Society , 40 (4), 489-509
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