At the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting, Morag Kersel presented her paper, “Changing Lives: Object Biography and Law.” She did so during the Object Biography for Archaeologists: A Practical Workshop session on Thursday, November 20, 2014. The workshop was not just about story-telling, it gave presenters a chance to discuss artifactual secondary context, taking into account theoretical discussion about things/objects, social networks and the complexities of global culture. Below you will find Kersel’s ten minute paper, as well as her abstract from the 2014 Program Book.
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In 1986 Arjun Appadurai asked us to consider the “social lives of things”: He argued that objects are not static, shuffling in and out of different classifications of value and use over their duration. In that same pivotal volume on things, Igor Kopytoff examined the effects of commoditization on objects, contending that the commodity phase may be only one aspect of the life of a thing. Thinking about the multiple and varied lives of objects resulted in a disciplinary shift when studying artifacts, one which now included thoughts on agency and multivocality.
Some 25+ years later I would like to examine the lives of things and law: how various legislative efforts (local, state, national, and international) have shaped, positively and negatively, the life of a thing. The objects of inquiry are Early Bronze Age ceramic vessels from the Dead Sea Plain in Jordan.
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