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HCA1007 : Stuff: living in a material world

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Sophie Moore
  • Lecturer: Dr Andrea Dolfini, Professor Helen Berry, Dr Jane Webster, Dr Felix Schulz, Dr Eric Tourigny, Dr Nicola Clarke, Dr Chloe Duckworth, Dr Chris Fowler
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Why do you love your new phone? Why do we style our homes? Why do we care when some things are broken? What can you tell about a person from their shoes, their car, or even from their evening meal? This module aims to introduce students to ideas about people and their things. It is concerned with one of the most fundamental parts of our lives: our stuff. We will consider why, and how, people use things in their lives. We will interpret ways in which we use things and ways in which things can exert power over us.

As humans we surround ourselves with things which play an important part in our lives whether we recognize them as significant or not. Graduates in a variety of careers need to be equipped to interpret the role of all kinds of objects in people’s lives. We will give you the skills to consider objects and people from different times and different places to help you to understand our contemporary world. This module will be of interest therefore to anyone who seeks to work with people and things in a range of disciplines and careers such as business, marketing, economics, Film Studies, English literature, heritage and tourism, geography, sociology, architecture, art, history or archaeology.

This module will introduce students to the study of stuff (also known as material culture studies!) through a series of thematic teaching sessions based on both lectures and workshops. Each week, we will introduce theories of material culture and examine the work of key scholars who have influenced thinking in material culture studies. Students will work together to reinforce and develop learning in practical sessions and assignments. The module will make use of the Great North Museum: Hancock’s artefact collection and other resources available locally in Newcastle city centre from shopping centres to art galleries and will seek to build both subject-specific skills and key graduate skills.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will include topics covering broadly those areas outlined here

Getting started
Block 1: What is Material Culture Studies?

Block 2: Material Culture and Us

Block 3: Artefact Biography

The Individual
Block 4: Things and Childhood

Block 5: Coming of Age and Adulthood; Clever Stuff: Technology, Wearing stuff

Block 6: Powerful Stuff

Block 7: Death and Stuff

The Home
Block 8: Eating Stuff

Block 9: Drinking Stuff

Block 10: The Living Room

Other stuff
Block 11: Imagined Communities

Block 12: Stuff, Heritage and Nostalgia

How to produce a good podcast
How to produce a good group project

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists