When I created my object methodology a number of weeks ago, I knew that, eventually, I would need to re-tweak my already tweaked Prownian approach. In conducting this final exercise, I found the manipulation to be helpful in further understanding about the waistcoat. I remember laughing to myself the first time I the line “Does [the object] sing to me?” To me, it boiled down to agency: can an object have agency, let alone sing, without its owner ? I did not think I would find the answer to that question or stumble into a larger conversation about it. However, as you can tell from my conclusion, there is a larger conversation to be had about both the potential for object agency and whether relationships between humans and objects are reciprocal or human-reliant.
This all said, there are obvious limits here: If someone else owned this waistcoat, would its story be any less interesting? Indeed, Captain Brown’s story is an incredible one and, perhaps, some of that incredible story transferred into the waistcoat’s own story. This limit requires future and further studies of objects like this waistcoat to see if the argument for a reciprocal relationship between object and human is an outlier more than a phenomenon. This phenomenon can be tested and further informed beyond the parameters of material culture. As we have seen in our class’ readings, material culture has roots in fields ranging from prosthesis and objects as postmodern texts to cultural anthropology and objects as clues about past communities.
In the end, I feel that conducting this exercise gave me a better sense of what I think material culture is for different people and where I think material culture studies can be applied. As a communicative technology student, I appreciate the connection between material studies and communication studies to the extent that the object, too, can communicate information about its history over time and space.