The Material Culture of Failure : When Things Do Wrong book cover
1st Edition

The Material Culture of Failure
When Things Do Wrong

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ISBN 9781350091719
Published November 29, 2018 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

What happens when objects behave unexpectedly or fail to do what they ‘should’? Who defines failure? Is failure always bad? Rather than viewing concepts such as failure, incoherence or incompetence as antithetical to social life, this innovative new book examines the unexpected and surprising ways in which failure can lead to positive and creative results. Combining both theoretical and ethnographic approaches to failure, The Material Culture of Failure explores how failure manifests itself and operates in a variety of contexts. The editors present ten ethnographic encounters of failure – from areas as diverse as design, textiles, religion, beauty, and physical failure – covering Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and the Arabian Gulf. Identifying common themes such as interpersonal, national and religious articulations of power and identity, the book shows some of the underlying assumptions that are revealed when materials fail, designs crumble, or things develop unexpectedly.The first anthropological study dedicated to theorizing failure, this innovative collection offers fresh insights based on the latest scholarship. Destined to stimulate a new area of research, the book makes a vital contribution to material culture studies and related social science theory.

Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsNotes on ContributorsAcknowledgmentsForeword: Failure and Fragility: Towards a Material Culture of the End of the World as We Knew ItDimitris Dalakoglu, Vrije University Amsterdam, Netherlands1. Introduction: Toward a General Theory of FailureTimothy Carroll, David Jeevendrampillai, and Aaron Parkhurst, University College London, UK2. Miracles and Crushed Dreams: Material Disillusions in the Design IndustryCamilla Sundwall, University College London, UK3. When Krishna Wore a Kimono: Deity Clothing as Rupture and InefficacyUrmila Mohan, University College London, UK4. Whitened Anxiety: Bottled Identity in the EmiratesAaron Lee Parkhurst, University College London, UK5. Holy Water, Healing and the Sacredness of KnowledgeAlexandra Antohin, Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies, UK6. Haredi (Material) Cultures of Health at the 'Hard to Reach' Margins of the StateBen Kasstan, Durham University, UK7. Failure as Constructive Participation? Being Stupid in the SuburbsDavid Jeevendrampillai, University College London, UK8. Destruction of Locality: On Heritage and Failure in 'Crisis Syria'Julie Shackelford, University College London, UK9. Axis of Incoherence: Engagement and Failure Between Two Material Regimes of ChristianityTimothy Carroll, University College London, UK10. The Materiality of Silence: Assembling the Absence of Sound and the Memory of 9/11Pwyll ap Stifin, University College London, UKAfterwordVictor Buchli, University College London, UKIndex

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Timothy Carroll, Teaching Fellow, University College London, UKDavid Jeevendrampillai, Research Associate, University of Oxford, UKAaron Parkhurst, Teaching Fellow, University College London, UKJulie Shackelford, Research Associate, University College London, UK


"At last, we have here a thoughtful and provocative series of essays, along with an excellent theoretical introduction, on how failures illuminate the contexts that produce and define them. Noting that failure is everywhere, both in traditional and contemporary societies, the authors reveal how failures in technology, ritual, politics and design are always productive, though usually not in the ways that we anticipate. - Arjun Appadurai, New York University, USA Material failure is disappointing, sometimes grotesque, always inevitable. But as the contributors to this diverse and engaging anthology suggest, material failure can open creative space for subjects on the ground and productive ruminations for the anthropologists who witness them, claiming fresh ground for the study of material culture. - Laurel Kendall, American Museum of Natural History, USA This inspiring book is essential reading for all researchers and students interested in material culture. What happens when we take failure seriously? What happens when things go wrong? From these simple questions the contributors to this volume open up an entrancing new world for us all to explore. - Oliver Harris, University of Leicester, UK"