Material Powers: Cultural Studies, History and the Material Turn, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Material Powers

Cultural Studies, History and the Material Turn, 1st Edition

Edited by Tony Bennett, Patrick Joyce


214 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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This edited collection is a major contribution to the current development of a ‘material turn’ in the social sciences and humanities. It does so by exploring new understandings of how power is made up and exercised by examining the role of material infrastructures in the organization of state power and the role of material cultural practices in the organization of colonial forms of governance.

A diverse range of historical examples is drawn on in illustrating these concerns – from the role of territorial engineering projects in seventeenth-century France through the development of the postal system in nineteenth-century Britain to the relations between the state and road-building in contemporary Peru, for example. The colonial contexts examined are similarly varied, ranging from the role of photographic practices in the constitution of colonial power in India and the measurement of the bodies of the colonized in French colonial practices to the part played by the relations between museums and expeditions in the organization of Australian forms of colonial rule. These specific concerns are connected to major critical re-examination of the limits of the earlier formulations of cultural materialism and the logic of the ‘cultural turn’.

The collection brings together a group of key international scholars whose work has played a leading role in debates in and across the fields of history, visual culture studies, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, museum studies, and literary studies.

Table of Contents

Material Powers Introduction Patrick Joyce and Tony Bennett Part 1: A History of the Categories 1. Matter and Materialism: A Brief Prehistory of the Present John Frow 2. Locating Matter: The Place of Materiality in Urban History Chris Otter 3. The Matter of Materialism: Literary Mediations Bill Brown Part 2: Assembling the State 4. The Unintended State Chandra Mukerji 5. Filing the Raj: Political Technologies of the Imperial British State Patrick Joyce 6. Abstraction, Materiality and the ‘Science of the Concrete’ in Engineering Practice Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox Part 3: Colonial Materialities 7. Camerawork as Technical Practice in Colonial India Christopher Pinney 8. Exploring the Senses and Exploiting the Land : Railroads, Bodies and Measurement in Nineteenth-Century French Colonies Nélia Dias 9. Making and Mobilising Worlds: Assembling and Governing the Other Tony Bennett

About the Editors

Tony Bennett is Research Professor of Social and Cultural Theory in the Centre for Cultural Research at the University of Western Sydney. He is also a Professorial Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne and a Visiting Professor at the Open University in the UK. Recent publications include Culture: A Reformer’s Science (Sage, 1998), Pasts Beyond Memory: Evolution, Museums, Colonialism (Routledge, 2004), and Culture, Class, Distinction, with Mike Savage, Elizabeth Silva, Alan Warde, Modesto Gayo-Cal and David Wright (Routledge, 2008).

Patrick Joyce is Professor Emeritus at the University of Manchester, and currently Visiting Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Fernand Braudel Fellow in History at the European University Institute, Florence. He has published widely on the history of work, class and popular politics, in recent times developing an interest in historical aspects of governmentality. His publications include Visions of the People (Cambridge University Press, 1991), The Oxford Reader on Class (Oxford University Press, 1995), The Social in Question (Routledge, 2001), and The Rule of Freedom (Verso, 2003).

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Historiography
LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General