UWTSD Lampeter lecturers edit interdisciplinary book series


Two lecturers from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Lampeter campus are editing a series of books entitled Materialities in Anthropology and Archaeology published by the University of Wales Press.

Materialities in Anthropology and Archaeology_Book Covers

Dr Luci Attala, a Social Anthropologist and Dr Louise Steel, an Archaeologist have joined forces to work on a series of books that offer a timely investigation into the material world and the place of peoples within it.  

While traditional theories of materiality have focused on how objects shape the lives of people, this interdisciplinary series aims to demonstrate how the world is comprised of assemblages of interacting materials, demonstrating the role of matter in the formation of material worlds.

The first book of the series - How Water Makes Us Human: Engagements with the Materiality of Water – was published in April and sees Dr Luci Attala, a senior lecturer in Anthroplogy based at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus, present an in-depth account of the relationship between humans and water.

Water plays a crucial role in shaping human lives, but increasingly we regard ourselves as disconnected from and even superior to the material world around us; though water and people flow together to shape each other, we fail to recognise the inextricable link.

In the interdisciplinary approach of this study - drawing on anthropology, development studies, cultural studies, environmental studies, geography and human geography - Dr Luci Attala applies anthropological information about water in Kenya, Wales and Spain to assemble a diverse wealth of material from which to demonstrate how entities influence each other through their materiality.

Throughout the publication, Luci encourages a holistic approach to the world and everything within it, presenting a broader message about human relationships with the environment as a whole.

“We find ourselves at a particular point in history which has now been officially named as the Age of the Anthropocene – a name that suggests that humans are having an effect on the planet in a way that’s never happened before and this is the foundational point from which this series grows,” says Dr Luci Attala.

“What we’re trying to do with the Materialities in Anthropology and Archaeology series is create a new way of looking at the world and a new analytic – a new way of understanding the world that draws people together with the rest of the material world so it sees no separation between the materials that form our bodies and the materials that form say the water running on a stream. What we’re trying to do is help people understand that the world is comprised of a series of interacting physical substances of which humans are almost like an assemblage of those integrating, inter-relating parts – and as soon as you start to see the world in those terms you must, by definition, start to think about the world in a different way and how you’re going to use those material aspects of the world to benefit life or degrade it, pollute it or cause problems on it.

“Underpinning all of this is an environmental message – a call for people to reconsider what the world is – and that it’s not for people to use the world but rather for people to recognise that the water that runs into your body will shape how you can behave,” continues Luci.  “For example, the fact that there’s a lot of plastic in our water now means that water moves differently and can’t move in the same way that it used to. Hopefully, this series will go a small way to get people to think how we mustn’t treat the water badly or that we must think at least about the consequences of what we’re doing - not just to keep humans alive but to keep the whole eco-system going.”

The second book of the series was published in May and is entitled Body Matters: Exploring the Materiality of the Human Body.

Edited by Dr Louise Steel, a Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus along with Dr Luci Attala, the aim of Body Matters is to remind us that we are part of the material world and to demonstrate the importance of understanding that we are fundamentally influenced and shaped by the other materials available in diverse landscapes.

This publication draws from a wide breadth of materials, with case studies from northern Europe, the Near East, East Africa and Amazonia, each highlighting the inherent materiality of humankind and the inextricable ties we have with the rest of the material world. By reminding the reader of their indisputable materiality, this volume seeks to draw people and the rest of the material world together to illustrate that bodies not only seep into, and are part of, the landscape, but equally that people and the material world are inextricably linked.

“What we’re doing in this book is drawing on a variety of different disciplines – archaeology, anthropology and medieval studies – and looking at the different ways that people have understood the human body through time and across space,” says Dr Louise Steel.  “What we’re also questioning is the notion which comes from Descarte’s ideas from the seventeenth century stating that humans are separate from the world. We’re challenging this notion and saying that actually, we’re part of the matter of the world and that we’re part of the matter that flows along with the wider environment.”

The next book in the series will focus on plants and a further publication focusing on earthy matters will follow.

For more information on the Materialities in Anthropology and Archaeology series published by the University of Wales Press, please visit https://www.uwp.co.uk/

Luci Attala is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology based at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus.  She is also a Senior Fellow of the HEA; a Green Gown Award winner (2015) for her work on sustainability, and recipient of UN Gold Star Award (2014) for work in Kenya.

As well as being a Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus, Dr Louise Steel is also a Senior Fellow of the HEA, and has directed archaeological fieldwork in Cyprus and Gaza.

To find out more about the Anthropology and Archaeology courses that Luci and Louise teach at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus, please visit www.uwtsd.ac.uk

Further Information

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communication and PR Officer on 01267 676908 / 07449 998476 sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk