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Anthropology and Archaeology

Objectification and Standardisation

On the Limits and Effects of Ritually Fixing and Measuring Life

by Tord Larsen, Michael Blim, Theodore M. Porter, Kalpana Ram, Nigel Rapport

Forthcoming November 2020 paper

ISBN978-1-5310-1895-5
e-ISBN978-1-5310-1896-2

Tags: Anthropology, Ritual Studies Monograph Series


Modes of objectification—different ways of producing and quantifying entities through categories and classes—are part of the cultural infrastructure of any society and any epoch. But we are now in an era that displays a passion for objectification and quantification unparalleled since the beginning of statistics. This volume identifies the most prominent contemporary forms of objectification: in the arts, medicine, finance, identity management, the rhetoric of science as well as the everyday. Different chapters show how these modes of objectification, measurement, and standardization shape the main dimensions of social life: meaning and representation, morality, and notions of thinghood and personhood. Moreover, quantification, measurement, and standardization are not simply ways of organizing pre-given entities. Rather, they are performative and generative technologies which create institutional objects, give rise to forms of objectivity and carry with them a range of normativities. Hence, the chapters also elaborate on the enduring link between forms of objectification and ritualism. At times, objectification is accomplished and fortified by ritualization. But ritual may also help disrupt the objectified, quantified world which meets resistance in the encounter with the actual fuzziness, flux, and capaciousness of reality. While the volume highlights the growing objectification and standardization of social life on the one hand, on the other it describes resistance to this trend.

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