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Material Things and Processes in Social Life and Social Science

Material Things and Processes in Social Life and Social Science

Date: 24th – 26th October, 2018

Venue: AC Meyers Vænge 15, 2450 Copenhagen


Materialism has been on the ascent in social theory for some time now.  Materialist “turns” abound, and all manner of theorists of human and social life profess to be materialists.  Little agreement, however, reigns about what it is to be a materialist and what is gained for theory or empirical research by emphasizing the material character of phenomena.

This PhD course aims to explore two prominent streams of thought—not previously juxtaposed—that highlight the presence of material things and processes in social life: archaeological theory and practice theory.  The aim is to consider how matter, material, materials, and material phenomena should be conceptualized, what it is for social phenomena to embrace such phenomena or to be material in character, how these matters should be studied, and what is gained for social theory and research by systematically including them within the thematics of particular investigations.

The learning objectives of the course are:

to provide the PhD students with knowledge about the theoretical resources and heritage of material theories. Ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues of material theories will be discussed in the light of insights from practice theories, archeological theories, and other influential accounts (e.g. actor-network theory).
to provide the PhD students with practical skills and know-how that will enable them to conduct their PhD studies and reflect on the role of material issues in relation to the field of their studies.
to provide the PhD students with expertise that enables them to critically reflect on and assess the strengths and limitations of empirical studies that are guided by the theoretical and methodological assumptions of material theories.

Teaching methods:

The course will be arranged as a mix of lectures, workshops, and classroom based discussions of empirical material generated by the participants.

Each student will be asked to submit a paper for the course. In the paper the students will be asked to reflect on the framing of their empirical studies: What do they consider to be the ‘objective’ and the ‘situation’ of their research and how does this objective reflect the role of material objects? The students will present and discuss the papers in the workshops and other students will serve as discussants. The workshops will be lead by the faculty members – faculty members will also serve as (co-)discussants of the papers presented by the students.

Finally, some of the (exemplary) empirical material from the workshops will be further discussed in plenum sessions. Professor Schatzki and Olsen will lead these discussions in order to demonstrate the approaches of practice theory and archeological theories.


Professor Theodore Schatzki, University of Kentucky and Aalborg University

Professor Bjørnar Julius Olsen, University of Tromsø

Professor Anders Buch, AAU


Participation is free. Accommodation and travel expenses must be covered by the participants.

Be aware that no-show-fee and cancellation after deadline will be charges with 500,-DKR

Please direct practical questions to Jeanette Mie Arboe jma@learning.aau.dk. Questions about the course can be directed to Anders Buch, buch@learning.aau.dk

Registration before 15th August: Here