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The moving objects of the London Missionary Society: an experiment in symmetrical anthropology

Wingfield, Chris (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

An experimental attempt to consider the history of the London Missionary Society (LMS) from the lens of the artefacts that accumulated at its London headquarters, which included a museum from 1814 until 1910. The movement of these things through space and over time offers a rich perspective for considering the impacts on Britain of its history of overseas missionary activity. Building on anthropological debates about exchange, material culture, and the agency of things, the biographies of particular objects are explored in relation to the processes involved in the assemblage, circulation and dispersal of the LMS collection. Methodologically, the research is an attempt to develop what Latour has called a symmetrical anthropology, with archaeological approaches to the material products of historical processes as an important dimension of this. Drawing on attempts to study ‘along the grain’ in historical anthropology, and to move beyond iconoclasm as a critical stance, it is argued that museums should be understood as ‘other places’ in which objects are made by techniques of inscription and confinement which have a significant ceremonial dimension. At the same time, certain charismatic objects are shown to have transcended these contexts of confinement, affecting those they encounter, and shaping history around themselves.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Stringer, Martin D. and Ustorf, Werner (1945-) and Pattison, Stephen
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Theology and Religion
Subjects:AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
BV Practical Theology
D204 Modern History
GN Anthropology
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3437
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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