Media Materialisms

Debashree Mukherjee

This graduate seminar offers a survey of debates on materiality and object-oriented ontologies that are currently revitalizing the humanities and social sciences. How does the physical world of objects and things affect our social and perceptual reality? Is it possible to imagine a world with the non-human at its center? Should we learn to study a “thing in itself” or is it better to approach matter as always-already entangled in networks and relations? In this interdisciplinary seminar we will keep media objects and contexts at the center of our study and travel through a long history of critical interest in materialism. The seminar begins with foundational debates from Marx to McLuhan and gradually moves through modules on materialism as understood vis-a-vis things, actors, relations, bodies, images, infrastructures, aesthetics, and ecologies. Weekly sessions combine historical and philosophical approaches to media forms and their material lives. A special emphasis is placed on complicating dominant disciplinary frameworks with theories and case studies from the South and insights from feminist theory. This is an interdisciplinary weekly course that will be relevant to students interested in media, film, cultural history, material culture, object histories, infrastructure studies, and environmental humanities.