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Observed Decay: Telling Stories with Mutable Things

Observed Decay: Telling Stories with Mutable Things The degradation of cultural artefacts is usually understood in a purely negative vein: the erosion of physical integrity is associated with a parallel loss of cultural information. This article asks if it is possible to adopt an interpretive approach in which entropic processes of decomposition and decay, though implicated in the destruction of cultural memory traces on one register, contribute to the recovery of memory on another register. The article tracks the entanglement of cultural and natural histories through the residual material culture of a derelict homestead in Montana. In conclusion, the article suggests that deposits of degraded material, though inappropriate for recovery in conventional conservation strategies, may be understood through the application of a collaborative interpretive ethic, allowing other-than-human agencies to participate in the telling of stories about particular places. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Material Culture SAGE

Observed Decay: Telling Stories with Mutable Things

Journal of Material Culture , Volume 11 (3): 21 – Nov 1, 2006

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References (45)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
Copyright © by SAGE Publications
ISSN
1359-1835
eISSN
1460-3586
DOI
10.1177/1359183506068808
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The degradation of cultural artefacts is usually understood in a purely negative vein: the erosion of physical integrity is associated with a parallel loss of cultural information. This article asks if it is possible to adopt an interpretive approach in which entropic processes of decomposition and decay, though implicated in the destruction of cultural memory traces on one register, contribute to the recovery of memory on another register. The article tracks the entanglement of cultural and natural histories through the residual material culture of a derelict homestead in Montana. In conclusion, the article suggests that deposits of degraded material, though inappropriate for recovery in conventional conservation strategies, may be understood through the application of a collaborative interpretive ethic, allowing other-than-human agencies to participate in the telling of stories about particular places.

Journal

Journal of Material CultureSAGE

Published: Nov 1, 2006

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