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CUSAS Talk: Paul Connerton

When May 05, 2016
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, Social Anthropology
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Paul Connerton

Durable Artifacts and Ephemeral Artifacts

Some cultures cherish durable artifacts; other cultures, our own
included in particular, ascribe high value to ephemeral artifacts.
Graves, which are the earliest form of artifacts, are durable objects;
so too are elementary tools, like axes and spears which have been used
over many centuries; so too are the street layouts of cities. On the
other hand, the global financial market, made possible by computers,
which operate in real time in the course of hours, minutes, and even
seconds, expedites the working of ephemeral objects; so too are the
intentional repeated destruction of the built environment; and so also
are the temporary working contracts which have become common in the
technologically most advanced parts of the world. The distinction
between durable and ephemeral artifacts is an important one because we
have for more than a century been living through one of the greatest
transformations of human history: a change from cultures which
attribute high value to durable objects, to cultures which ascribe
high value to ephemeral objects. This change has repercussions for the
way in which we think about the survival of cultural emotions. A
culture which cherishes durable objects will value highly cultural
survivals, whereas a culture which attributes high value to ephemeral
objects will be likely to think less highly of cultural survivals.

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