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

Wingfield, Chris (2012). The moving objects of the London Missionary Society: an experiment in symmetrical anthropology. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology


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