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The HAT Project 2006/07 is supporting 20 exchange fellowships between England, South Asia and Australia

Jane Webb

Residency at MIRIAD

I am the critical co-ordinator and one of the writers involved in the HAT project.

My discipline has always been what is understood now as 'material culture', but what began, when I was a student, as the relationship between art history and anthropology. 'Material Culture' as I understand it means that you can study everything from a book to a fork or a building, or even a queue for the bus if you like, as long as it exists and perhaps you can even study something that does not exist but is something people want to exist. Judy Attfield has claimed that material culture has released itself from "the barrenness of [disciplinary] purity" which sounds amazing, but this is not always trouble-free.

Because of material culture, I have worked on many different subjects such as early nineteenth-century politics, design theory and anatomy, post-war planning and design, and even unusual ideas such as the Luscher colour test (in an attempt to use it to make a device to get people lost). I have also worked with artists, designers, film makers and archaeologists but there is some consistency to my work which seems to explore the 'meta' theme of the relationship between theory and practice, in particular: theory as an embodied practice - a phenomenology of theory, how theory becomes active in the world, the dominance of the linguistic model in the analysis of the material world and the effects of utopian plans on everyday life.

I also see academic writing as an opportunity for creativity and enjoy the fact that my work, which is often historical, is really about things that are totally unknowable. This gives me the opportunity for my role as an academic to not simply be representational of a world out there, but to help construct that world.


Jane Webb's talks to during cHAT week at Sanskriti, Delhi, India. March 2007

Click on image to open QuickTime movie