Sarah May


Regarding economies and policies through the eyes of a cultural anthropologist


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Wood is considered to be one of the oldest materials and, as such, it is currently receiving new attention: As a renewable raw, uncontaminated building and versatile usable material, as a “material of the future,” wood is woven into a variety of action chains that connect seemingly remote fields, such as private living and global environmental protection, traditional material connotations and political interventions, economies of the rural and constructions of the urban, the beautiful and the useful, things and landscape, art and everyday life. The article locates in these accumulations, interlinkages and simultaneities, the potential of an analysis of wood through cultural studies. An ethnographically oriented cultural-scientific analysis of the network of action around wood can disclose prioritizations and classification systems precisely because wood shows itself as an omnipresent, variously connoted material and is simultaneously used and negotiated in everyday living environments. A particular interest of the author lies in the economies and policies that constitute the network of action around wood and are constituted by it at the same time. On a broad empirical basis, she discusses how wood is currently used and given meaning and to what extent access via a material enables cultural anthropological analyses of economic and political fields.

material, economization, politicization, (investments in) meaning, sustainability, nature, rural area, urban building, future, crafts, wood