This panel starts from the position that imaginations and moral expectations about identity and indigeneity are often informed and contested through material culture. We ask: how do changing materialities relate to processes of self-making, self-presentation and representation?
Numerous ethnographic studies have underlined the significance of 'objects' in indigenous strategies to materialise and mediate their social relations, desires, and values, whether through the object's innate subjectivities, agency, or material qualities (e.g. Strathern 1988, Gell 1993, Santos-Granero 2009, Basu 2017). However, amidst large-scale environmental change and global extractive industries, historically-used materials are sometimes considered 'threatened', 'unsustainable,' or more difficult to obtain. Further, globalised trade and colonial processes have rendered particular manufactured goods more desirable or accessible, subverting assumptions about 'traditional' forms of material culture (Thomas 1991, Foster 2002). If material culture inculcates ways of thinking about identities, including indigeneity, this panel asks how changing materialities relate to processes of self-making, self-presentation and representation? Imaginations and moral expectations of the ways that people should be living are often informed, enacted and contested through the objects. We further ask: In what ways do materialities shape - or become shaped by - these expectations and evaluations across different domains, from local events to museum collections to anthropological studies? For whom does the mutability (or immutability) of materiality matter? How might we make sense of these perceived transformations such that they meaningfully inform disciplinary theory and practice? We invite contributions that question how anthropological, archaeological and museum renditions of objects are challenged by the mutability of the 'material' and the fluidity with which 'identity' is expressed within transforming national and global configurations.