Nathan Schlanger spoke at the Seminar in Cultural History on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. His talk is entitled “‘Material Culture’: The Concept and its Use in Historical Perspective.”

The more “material culture” becomes a catchall concept in contemporary social sciences, the more it deserves its own critical history. The identification of the concept in the heydays of nineteenth-century anthropology—when in fact the term did not exist as such—is a prelude to its naturalization and its neutralization, as a descriptive category whose objective study is seemingly devoid of extra-disciplinary implications. As Schlanger will show, however, drawing on both Anglo-Saxon and French research traditions, the study of material culture actually raises a range of ideological, political, anthropological, and economic challenges that we will do well to acknowledge.

Nathan Schlanger works at the French Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP). He is also associated with the UMR Trajectories in Nanterre and is a member of the research team at the École du Louvre. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge. Schlanger’s research interests include prehistoric technology, material culture studies, the history and politics of archaeology, and archaeological heritage management and policy. He has notably worked on the technological approach developed by Marcel Mauss, André Leroi-Gourhan, and the French research tradition. His recent publications include European Archaeology Abroad: Global Settings, Comparative Perspectives, co-editors, S.J. van der Linde, M.H. van den Dries, and C.G. Slappendel (Leiden: Sidestone Press, 2012); Marcel Mauss: Techniques, technologie et civilisation (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012); La préhistoire des autres: perspectives archéologiques et anthropologiques, co-editor, Anne Christine Taylor (Paris: La Découverte Editions, 2012); and Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis: Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions, co-editor, Kenneth Aitchison (Tervuren, Belgium: Culture Lab Editions, 2010).