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Studies of materiality cannot simply focus upon the characteristics of objects but must engage in the dialectic of people and things. Materiality studies involve the exploration of the situated experiences of material life, the constitution of the object world and concomitantly its shaping of human experience. An interest in materiality is common to members of faculty including Liisa Malkki in her work on craft and design and Barbara Voss in her archaeological research on materiality, identity, and subjectivity. Miyako Inoue is interested in the materiality of the sign and language in the forms of documents and files, as well as the technical and technological infrastructure--such as the typewriter and stenography--that makes linguistic signification possible. Angela Garcia explores the relationship between material and psychic life in both the United States and Mexico City. Lynn Meskell has written about culturally embedded understandings of materiality in ancient Egypt, South Africa and Turkey. Andrew Bauer’s research on landscape histories, climate change, and political ecology also critically engages with theories of materiality. Understanding the relationships between people and things is a major strut of archaeological theory and Ian Hodder has written about the role of material culture in society and the entanglements between humans and things.

Duana Fullwiley chronicles the relationship between people and things within realms of science, medicine, and healing. She has examined the role of a widely used botanical in Senegalese informal health sectors as one of several objects that mediate affective ties between chronic sufferers of sickle cell disease. Working between Paris and Dakar, she also shows how this medical material has largely been overlooked by geneticists who have focused on Senegalese "genetic specificity" to explain observations of mild sickle cell in Senegalese patients. In the United States, her work centers on how scientific objects, from human ancestry models to genetic databases for drug development, are often structured by scientists' own political ideas about race, ethnicity, and regional belonging.