Material Culture and Politics of Values

Material Culture and Politics of Values

By: Wildan Insan Fauzi

Material culture is an aspect of culture that is material, however, behind it, there is a certain meaning. Material culture is not a fossilized behavior or a passive result of human action, but there is always active reciprocity between human ideas and actions and “material culture”. Concerning material culture, an object found politics of value related to how it is interpreted, with class identity, and the individuation of the object’s value (Reno, 2009).

The politics of value is not just about competition for goods, but about the power to determine what (and who) is valuable. The value of a material culture object is dynamic, which means that the dynamics have the potential to cause changes in value in a certain time and space context. Brumfiel’s (2007) work on the Aztecs and Reno’s (2009) on “garbage” emphasizes the relationship between material culture and human ideas and actions that can never be separated from three things, namely: the human person, cultural and historical context (Hodder, 2003).

The concept of the meaning of material culture from Reno and Brumfiel and the development of postmodern archeology provide a bridge for the author to connect archaeological and historical studies. History requires a scientific study of archeology that is scientific in nature to help history reconstruct the past and new meanings (Carr, 1985). The study of postmodern archeology is based on a pluralistic and relativistic analysis of postmodernism that allows for fluid meaning.

For example, what is the meaning of various historical monuments? Alan S. Marcus and Thomas H. Levine (2010) entitled “Remember the Alamo? Learning History with Monuments and Memorials” shows that the Alamo monument in Washington D.C. can be used as a source of learning history to develop historical thinking skills. A monument or monument designed as a memorial site functions as a historical symbol, so that it can be maintained in addition to forming identity from generation to generation but also maintaining national identity (Barton and McCully, 2005: 89).



Barton, C. K., & McCully, A. W. (2005). “History, identity, and the school curriculum in Northern Ireland: an empirical study of secondary students’ ideas and perspectives” in Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37 (1).

Brumfiel, E. M. (2007). Huitzilopochtli’s conquest of Aztec ideology in the archaeological record. In Insoll, T(ed) (2007). The Archeology of Identity. USA: Routledge

Carr, E.H. (1985) What Is History?, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, Ltd.

Marcus, A. S. & Levine, T. H. 2010. “Remember the Alamo? Learning History among Monuments and Memorials” in Journal of Social Education, 74 (1).

Reno, J. (2009). “Your trash is someone’s treasure: the politics of value at a Michigan landfill,” in Journal of material culture, 14(1), pp. 29-46.

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