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Biomedicine in museums

The Comfort of Things — an inquiry into unique singularities outside social notions of identity

I haven’t read Daniel Miller‘s recently published The Comfort of Things (Polity Press, 2008) yet, but his own presentation of the book in today’s Material World promises an extra-ordinary interesting reading experience for anyone interested in the use of ‘particulars’ (unique, anecdotal, idiosyncratic, singular, curious, etc. things) in museum practice.

The Comfort of Things is composed of thirty ‘portraits’ of individuals and households from a single street in London. Miller — who is professor of material culture at UCL — suggests that there is a “so far unexplored potential legacy of anthropological perspectives on the world” which emerges “if we dissolve away our usual dualism between the individual and some larger category of society or culture”.

The ‘portrayed’ households failed “to fit the kinds of categories that are used to subsume individuals in social science”. In some respects they could be classified as ‘working class’ or ,’Brazilian’ or ‘gay’ etc., but “none of these categories really capture what is richest about our encounters with them”. By using a random London street as his unit of inquiry, Miller had to describe whoever opened the door to their homes — thus they were not chosen “as tokens of social science notions of identity”.

Cannot wait to get my hands on it before summer laziness takes over.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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