Material aspects of consumption and care

This research line explores the material dimensions of social life in consumption and care, and is oriented around four key questions:

1)    What is the material?

Drawing on diverse theoretical perspectives and empirical foci, we investigate the contested nature of what the material actually is. We explore the ways in which the material is always socially and politically implicated, and emphasise the material relations of material itself: particular technologies, for example, are articulated in relation to the socio-material context of their use.

2)    Who defines the material?

The fundamentally contested nature of the material directs attention to the competing claims that surround it. What value is ascribed to particular materials, and who makes these claims? Where does power lie in defining the material, and what is at stake in its definition?

3)    What does the material do?

We explore the ways in which the material is implicated in practices of consumption and care, as well as – inter alia – the maintenance and change of social and political contexts, or the production of political subjectivities. Our research foregrounds an ‘emic’ perspective, seeking to understand the social and practical context of the material, but also adopts historical and discursive approaches.

4)    Who materialises?

As well as considering how material is defined, we explore how material is materialised – brought into being – and consider which actors are implicated or excluded. Contestation vis-à-vis the material is not confined to its definition or valuation, but also has an ontological dimension.