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This cluster examines artistic forms of cultural and political creativity, beauty, and imagination.

New materialism asks about the life of objects and other matter, and encompasses cultural anthropology, archaeology, and other interdisciplinary areas of inquiry. Research areas include cultural and artistic expressions, ranging from pottery to images to music.

Basit Iqbal

I approach the fields of aesthetics and the imagination through questions of genre and poetics (the seeking of form at discursive thresholds). In my ethnographic fieldwork with Syrian refugees and aid workers in Jordan and Canada, I attend to select material-artistic practices (poetry, calligraphy, images). A related set of interests pursues the trope of “witness” across disciplines, from humanitarian testimony to eschatological reckoning. My teaching increasingly includes multiple media, which returns me to methodological questions of translation, expression, and critique.

Petra Rethmann

Petra Rethmann’s interests lie at the intersection of cultural anthropology, politics, history, philosophy, and art. In drawing on a number of ethnographic/experimental methodologies and theoretical approaches, she explores – for example – the ways in which experiences of historical grievances and injuries shape political imaginations. Through SSHRC-funded research she concretely examines this issue through the global entanglements of Germany, Russia, and Kazakhstan. In regards to her interests in philosophy and art, Petra is very interested in understanding how the former both act in and expand our understanding of the world. In this regard, she is currently working on two book-length projects, asking about art as a form of becoming and as a putative source of political and economic redemption in especially post-industrial societies. Petra is also deeply invested in questions of writing. She teaches seminars and classes on the interconnection between politics, activism, futurity, and hope; history and memory; and ethnographic and other forms of writing, Petra has provided logistic and research support for a number of politically progressive movements and NGOs, and considers ethics and commitment as integral to the research process and to working towards a better world.  

Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick’s work into craft production in both the ancient and contemporary world has explored the power of mundane objects to produce and negotiate relationships. He focuses on both the learning networks involved in pottery production and the social lives of the materials involved. His archaeological and ethnographic research explores the vibrant matter used to produce pottery (clay, sediments) and the residues of their production (ash mounds) are part of a complex networks in the highlands of Bolivia.

Yana Stainova

My scholarship explores the significance of art, beauty, and creativity for people whose lives are marked by violence. I study artistic creation through a methodology that is both sensitive to the phenomenological experience of art and grounded in a critical understanding of the topographies of power inscribed and reproduced in urban space. My first book Sonorous Worlds: Musical Enchantment in Venezuela explores how young people coming of age in the urban barrios of Caracas use music and stories to push back against the forces of everyday violence, ethno-racial discrimination, and state repression. Sonorous Worlds contributes an ethnographically grounded perspective to scholarship on new materialisms by exploring musicians’ enchantment with the materiality of music and its potential to generate dreams of individual and collective futures. My interest in the concept of enchantment inspires what I call a “method of enchantment” — an affirmative counterpoint to critical modes of scholarship.