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PhD, Anthropology and Archaeology,
Cambridge University, 1983
Professor of Material Culture
Daniel Miller is on research leave until September 2017, following an ERC award for research on the impact of social media in seven countries, see project page. Within this project he will carry out an ethnography of a small English town, a study of social media use in Trinidad and in collaboration with a hospice research on the social relations of end of life patients. He will not be involved in teaching, other than PhD supervision. He will also be working as a research assistant on Susie Kilshaw's study of mothers and miscarriage in Qatar.
He recently completed a book about the use and consequences of webcam with Jolynna Sinanan which will be published as Webcam by Polity Press.
Danny is on Twitter as @DannyAnth
Material World Blog: www.materialworldblog.com This is intended to be a facility for anyone anywhere interested in the general area of material culture. We would particularly encourage student participation. So do submit postings and comments.
- material culture, objectification
- consumption and relationships
- value and political economy
- clothing and housing
- digital anthropology, media and social networking
- transnational domestic labour, motherhood
DIGITAL ANTHROPOLOGY We have recently established a new MSc programme in Digital Anthropology at the Department. We hope to expand this further into a major centre for the study of Digital Anthropology. Please contact us if you are interested in becoming involved.
CONSUMPTION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (The Times Higher Education Book of the Week)
Published by Polity this is the sequel to Stuff.
This engagingly written book addresses some of the central dilemmas of contemporary global society: how to sustain a developed-world, consumerist lifestyle in the face of wrenching economic shifts and accelerating climate change. The topic is urgent, the prescriptions for change coming from academic and policy leaders, paltry. Miller makes the conversation more interesting, more lively, and more honest. Bill Maurer
By seeing localization where others see globalization, by putting forward an alternative theory of value, Miller provides some clues as to how scientists, politicians and citizens can work together towards more fair and sustainable practices and systems. The Global Journal
His insights here deserve a wider hearing. Times Higher Education Book of the Week
Published by Routledge this book is the result of joint research with Mirca Madianou discussing the impact of new media on the relationship between Filipina mothers and their left behind children.
An exemplar and groundbreaking study, with contributions to theory and our understanding of polymedia in everyday life, this stands out as an extraordinary read on the technology of relationships. Zizi Papacharissi
This fascinating, richly detailed book investigates the role that fluency across multiple digital platforms plays in enabling mothering and caring to be sustained at a distance. A genuine breakthrough. Nick Couldry
The book succeeds in what many authors fruitlessly pursue: deriving convincing theory from an abundance of vast qualitative data. It is a highly engaging book that is rich in detail without drowning the reader in it. Its empirical and theoretical innovations make it a highly recommended book for any scholar working on media and migration, long-distance communication and the increasingly complex media environments that enfold us. Communications
[A] compelling read about the ‘connected transnational family’ … The most compelling aspect of this book, this reader would argue, is its simultaneous engagement with a broad range of entangled issues. It convincingly puts mothers/children, migration/communication, mediation/relationship, past/present/future as well as theory/research practice into close encounter throughout. LSE Review of Books
Published by University of California Press, this is intended to be a case study in Material Culture.
The book takes us from the ethnography of people wearing blue jeans in North London to analytical questions of the meaning of being ordinary and the impact on migrants. It ends with the more philosophical implications of asking the question why we wear Blue Jeans.
Written with Sophie Woodward. The miracle of Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward’s treatise is just how wide its insight stretches. Through the lens of something as ordinary as blue jeans, we are offered a view of culture, immigration, women’s issues, and social and familial structures. Most of all we are offered a unique view of ourselves. Rachel Louise Snyder.
This contains fourteen chapters by leading researchers in the field to constitute a first text book for this new sub-field.
Researchers and teachers alike have long been waiting for this invaluable guide to the tricky terrain of digital anthropology. Demonstrating what anthropology brings to the study of the digital and vice versa, Horst and Miller's book provides a firm launching-off point for new investigations of the remediations, remodulations, and reconfigurations associated with digital media and technology. --Paul Dourish, Professor of Informatics, University of California, Irvine
This remarkable volume provides a provocative survey of an emergent territory we are all coming to inhabit. Broad in coverage yet acutely attentive to the particulars, offering multiple perspectives yet elegantly integrative, and epistemologically bracing while deeply anthropological, this is a work of lasting value for experts and non-experts alike. --Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz
Digital Anthropology is a beautifully curated book that reveals the importance of anthropological insight for understanding different aspects of networked society, from the spectacular to the mundane. In this formative book, Horst and Miller call attention to the ways in which digital technologies make visible our humanity. --danah boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research
TALES FROM FACEBOOK
Tales From Facebook derives both from
observations on Facebook itself and fieldwork in Trinidad. Apart from 12 portraits that indicate the impact of
Facebook on peoples’ lives, the book includes a theory of Facebook and a
discussion of its likely impact in the future. A brief introduction to
the book may be found on youtube.
Tales from Facebook is a genre-busting tour de force. Tom Boellstorff
Previous research into Facebook tended to fall into the pop-psychology bracket or concentrated on specific subjects… Miller's study was wide-ranging and followed the intimate Facebook habits of up to 200 people, logging the way they used the site and the impact it had on their wider relationships. The Independent
Tales from Facebook is a must read for those interested in the way the internet is mediating social and cultural life. Miller's 12 portraits are delivered in an appealing narrative fashion. As an academic text, this book is both accessible and engaging. Cultural Sociology
It is Miller's focus on Trinidad and his beguilingly
intimate style of writing that makes this work special. Prepare to have your
expectations confounded. The Age (Melbourne)
This is a collaborative project with Dr Sophie Woodward. An initial paper called A Manifesto for a Study of Denim was published in the journal Social Anthropology (January 2008). An edited collected called Global Denim will be published with Berg in November 2010. A further book Denim: the art of ordinary has just been completed with Sophie Woodward based on our fieldwork in three London streets. A recent paper was also published in American Ethnologist. For information about these projects or if you wish to become associated with it please see the Global Denim Project site.
A summary of all my previous work is being undertaken in two new volumes Stuff published by Polity in 2009 and Consumption and its Consequences which will be published by Polity in 2012
[Stuff] really is a little gem. Timely, well-written and highly accessible, it is a concise and grounded resource in the struggle to analyse the complexities of contemporary cultural life . . . For undergraduates and general critical readers alike, it will be a welcome and thought-provoking reminder that the material world of things we have created, and which in turn helps to create us, needs to be understood dialectically – for better and for worse. Times Higher Education
[T]here are fascinating things here: a seven-page
description of how a woman who wears a sari navigates daily life through
the garment; a portrait of council tenants as “artists” redecorating
their flats in different ways; and analyses of fashion, furnishing and
“mobile phone relationships” in Jamaica. When Miller is focused on the
details, the writing hums with empathetic colour and detail. The Guardian
CLOTHING AND WASTE
I am supporting Dr. Lucy Norris and Julie Botticello of the Dept. of Anthropology UCL in her research which forms part of a larger ESRC funded called The Waste of the World and led by Prof. Nicky Gregson of the Department of Geography, University of Sheffield. This included an ethnography of hand loom and waste in Kannur, north Kerala, India, and a current study of shoddy (textiles from previously used fibres).
ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE INDIVIDUAL
A collective project based on work by PhD students in the
department has recently been completed and was published in November
2009 by Berg. The book takes a material culture perspective on the way anthropologists discuss individuals.
THE AU-PAIR EXPERIENCE
This is a collaboration with Dr. Zuzana Burikova of the
Institute for Ethnology in Bratislava. The study consisted of a years
ethnographic research on the experience of Slovakian au-pairs and their
host families in London. The project was funded by the Leverhulme
Our book Au Pair is now published with Polity Press.
Au Pair is a ripping good read, full of salacious details of the indignities of trying to live and work as a foreigner in middle-class London households. Times Higher Education
With its fine-grained ethnographic detail, skilfully presented in vivid prose, this book illuminates every aspect of the hopes, fantasies and frustrations that constitute the frequently troubled ties and misunderstandings between au pairs and their employers. A huge pleasure to read, Au Pair provides a defi nitive, indispensable text for addressing this increasingly prevalent facet of family life, with its own suggestions for improving the lives of both au pairs and the families in which they reside. Lynne Segal, author of Why Feminism?
THE MATERIAL CULTURE OF LOSS
Fieldwork on the use of material culture in helping people
deal with loss was carried out mainly in a single street with Fiona
The Comfort of Things was published by Polity Press in 2008. A paper by Daniel Miller and Fiona Parrott addressing the more academic issues raised by this work was published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute in August 2009.
The very best kind of micro-ethnography. Miller writes better – and with more insight and compassion – than most novelists. Kate Fox, author of Watching the English
An outstanding piece of work: a fine example of modern anthropological fieldwork, a powerful corrective to the banal notion that materialism is synonymous with excessive individualism and, perhaps above all, an informed, sensitive, and wholly sympathetic guide to the human diversity to be found through the keyholes of our capital city. Laurie Taylor, The Independent
A wonderful and unusual antidote to the fear that humanity and individuality is losing its battle with modern consumerism. In his book, even the most trivial product of consumerism can be rendered almost magical by its owners. The Financial Times
Daniel Miller’s moving account, The Comfort of Things, is a stout defence of that pejorative notion: “only sentimental value”. He builds up a tapestry of the variety of ways in which people use things to express themselves and make meaning in their lives. The nondescript, the ordinary, can be invested with great value. In Miller’s account, people knit rich associations with objects, caring for each, using them to express relationships. The Guardian
THE IMPACT OF NEW MEDIA ON LOW INCOME HOUSEHOLDS IN JAMAICA
This ethnography was carried out jointly with Dr. Heather
Horst, who currently teaches at the University of Berkeley, California.
The results have been published in the book Horst, H and Miller, D. The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. (Oxford: Berg) 2006.
Horst and Miller give a dazzling display of new and innovative methods, combined with sophisticated use of anthropological theory. Richard Wilk, Indiana University
A landmark in mobile phone studies that will
appeal to a wide audience and that is likely to frame debates in this
field for some time to come. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
THE CONCEPT OF VALUE
This includes case-studies based on the Best Value inspectorate of local government, and the rise of shareholder value as well as the colloquial use of the concept of value. This expands his previous work on virtualism and political economy. A paper called The Uses of Value which sumarises this research was published in the journal Geoforum.
A return to the wider issues of materiality that have
recently surfaced in the work of Alfred Gell, Bruno Latour and others
and in my earlier writings.
This book makes the reader engage with a range of old and new arguments on materiality and pushes their boundaries in a way that makes it important reading for a broad anthropological public. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
A magisterial and highly original collection. Marilyn Strathern,
A milestone collection. George Marcus
Throughout the chapters, the analyses are of high quality. The authors know their cases and present them well. American Journal of Sociology
CLOTHING AS MATERIAL CULTURE
This edited collection with Susanne Kuechler includes contributions from many of our PhD. Students working on topics such as Lycra, women's wardrobes, re-cycling of cloth and clothing in the Pacific. It was published by Berg in 2005.
Based on fieldwork in India, the book The Sari written with Mukulika Banerjee and published by Berg in 2004. It has recently been republished, in 2008, by Berg.
A fascinating look at this great Indian traditional wear told through the voices of women who love and live with it on a daily basis. Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham
The strength and charm of this book is the ease
with which it distils in an extremely readable, vivacious, and often
witty manner the ethnographic perspectives set within a broader context
of social, political, and religious changes. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
The Dialectics of Shopping
This is the third volume of research based on a study of shopping in North London - It is based on the Morgan Lectures of 1998.The book's concern is to relate micro and macro perspectives in anthropology by examining in turn kinship, community, civil society and political economy as they are revealed by the study of shopping.
This edited volume is the first to study the car in comparative contexts.
It contains papers ranging from Ghana, US, Australian Aboriginal societies and Norway, examining topics such as car audios, road rage, gender, colonialism and modernity.
At last! A book which not only takes a
wide-ranging and nuanced approach to the contradictory relations between
humans and cars, but also places that research within a cosmopolitan
empirical and theoretical framework. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
Car cultures does offer a rather different take on car use and abuse than found in the usual anti-car environmentalist genre. Environmental Politics
The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach
Written with Don Slater on the use of the Internet in
Trinidad. This ranges from its effects on relationships and the family,
through the political economy of internet supply to religious and
commercial uses of the net, and the specific implications of email, chat
and websites respectively. There is more information and access to all the accompanying illustrations on http://www.ethnonet.gold.ac.uk.
Essentially thrilling ... this is the best piece of research on social uses of the internet that I have come across. The Independent
Now a remarkable new book has raised the discussion to a new level. The Observer
The book is impressive, well argued and
written and I would suggest that it is essential reading for all
students and researchers examining the relationship between new internet
technologies and society. Sociology
This is the second volume of edited studies of Daniel's Post-graduate students.
It develops a number of new perspectives on the material culture of the home including several papers on the study of mobility, the agency of homes and possessions, and the general problem of privacy and of research in the domestic sphere.
[Home Possessions] presents a series of themes
indicative of a key shift in the study of material culture and the home,
placing the material agency of the home firmly on the agenda for future
empirical and theoretical work on the home. It should be popular
amongst undergraduates and is important reading for any researcher
working in this area. Anthropological Theory
This jointly edited book is concerned to examine the
relationship between people and commerce ranging from historical
perspectives on the development of modern commerce through to aspects of
Daniel Miller's section is concerned with issues of exchange and the production of value, with papers on exchange over the internet, and on second hand clothing.
A New Political Economy jointly edited with James Carrier
which is concerned with new developments in political economy that
generalize trends that have become evident over the last twenty years.
Themes include the rise of auditing, international economic bodies and abstracted models of the consumer.
This volume ... is a worthy turn-of-the-century successor to Karl Polanyi's 'The great transformation' (1957) Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
A Theory of Shopping
This volume summarises the results of an ethnography of
shopping in North London and constructs a general theory as to the
nature of provisioning as the technology of love. It then relates this
theory to anthropological studies of sacrifice.
Miller begins with an excellent and sensitive ethnography of shopping firmly rooted among his own native north Londoners. It is a fine example of what an anthropologist can achieve at home. Times Higher Education
His demystification of what appears to be, on the surface, straightforward juggling of cost, quantity and quality is absorbing reading. Will Self, New Statesman and Society
Vastly entertaining. The Spectator
Stimulating and highly readable. Sunday Telegraph
Stunning...a good deal of enlightenment and academic entertainment. Church Times
This book has its delights and surprises...and it lights the fuse of many an odd train of thought. The Times Literary Supplement
Material Culture and Mass Consumption
Miller's well-written book opens exciting prospects for a fertile but
underdeveloped area of Anthropology. It certainly deserves your
attention. American Anthropologist
Miller's analysis of material culture, mass consumption and the theoretical bases by which both are understood, promises to spark some lively and potentially fruitful debate. International Journal of Comparative Sociology
Daniel Miller's new book is excellent and deserves to be widely read, not only be specialists in material culture, but also be all anthropologists and social scientists who are concerned with the cultural characteristics of "modern" society. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford
Some Recent Publications
Copyright law does not allow reproduction of the published version which should be sought through the journals or books, but final drafts of papers are included here.
2012 Dying, Anthropology and new communication media. Paper given at 2012 conference for Centre for Death and Society
Paul Thompson and the Problem of Communities in London, Paper given at Fetschrift for Paul Thompson
Thinking a North London Street, Paper given at Tate Modern, not published in English but published in French as Une rue du nord de Londres et ses magasins : imaginaire et usages. In Ethnologie Francais 2005 (1) special issue Négoces dans la ville Ed. Jean-Pierre Hassoun pp 17-26
London: Nowhere in particular, Paper given at EASA 2008
Hospices - The Potential for New Media. - An applied anthropology report requested and submitted to the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted
Selected Published Papers
1997 How Infants Grow Mothers in North London. Theory, Culture and Society (Nov 1997) vol 14 No 4: 67-88
2001 Possessions. In D. Miller Ed. Home Possessions. Oxford: Berg pp. 107-121
2001 Driven Societies. In D. Miller Ed. Car Cultures. Oxford: Berg pp. 1-33
2002 (with A. Clarke) Fashion and Anxiety Fashion Theory 6: 191-214
2003 The Virtual Moment Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9: 57-75
2004 The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem? In K. Ekstrom and H. Brembeck Ed. Elusive Consumption Oxford: Berg. pp 113-127
2005 Introduction. In S. Küchler, and D. Miller. Eds. Clothing as Material Culture. Oxford; Berg pp 1-19
2005 Materiality: An Introduction. In D. Miller Ed. Materiality. Durham: Duke University Press pp 1-50.
2005 What is Best Value? In P. du Gay ed. The Values of Bureaucracy. Oxford : Oxford University Press, pp. 233-254
2006 The Unpredictable Mobile Phone. In BT Technology Journal 24 (3) July 2006 pp 41-48
2007 Very big and very small societies. In A. Ribeiro Ed. The Urgency of Theory Manchester: Carcanet Press pp 79-105
2007 What is a relationship? Kinship as negotiated experience. Ethnos 72 (4) 535-554
2007 (with S. Woodward). A Manifesto for the Study of Denim. Social Anthropology 15 (3) pp 335-351
2008 The Uses of Value. Geoforum. 39: 1122-1132
2008 So, what's wrong with Consumption? RSA Journal (Journal of the Royal Society for the Arts). Summer 2008: 44-4
2008 Migration, material culture and tragedy In P. Basu and S. Coleman (eds.), Migrant Worlds, Material Cultures, special issue of Mobilities 3(3) 397-413.
2009 (with F. Parrott). Loss and material culture in South London. Journal of the Royal
Anthropological Association 15: 502-510
2010 Anthropology in Blue Jeans American Ethnologist Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 415–428
2010 Designing Ourselves In A. Clarke Ed. Design Anthropology. New York: Springer, 88-99
2011 (with M Madianou) Mobile Phone Parenting: reconfiguring relationships between Filipina mothers and their children in the Philippines. New Media & Society 13: 457-470,
2011 The Limits of Jeans in Kannur, Kerala. In Global Denim Ed. D. Miller and S. Woodward 87-101
2011 Introduction (with S. Woodward) In Global Denim Ed. D. Miller and S Woodward 1-21
2011 Consumption beyond Dualism In Ekstrom, K and and Kay Glans. Eds. Beyond the Consumer Bubble. London: Routledge 70-82
2011 The Power of Making. In D. Chaney Ed. The Power of Making. London V&A Publishing. Pp14-27
2011 (with M. Madianou) Crafting Love: letters and cassette tapes in transnational Filipino communication In M. Johnson and D. McKay Eds. Mediated Identities, Diasporic Lives: Situating Filipinos and Philippine Studies in a Translocal Space South East Asia Research 19, 2, pp. 249 272
2011 Getting THINGS right: Mothers and Material Culture. Studies in the Maternal 3:2
2012 Social Networking Sites In Horst H and Miller, D. Eds. Digital Anthropology. Oxford: Berg 156-161
2012 With Mirca Madianou. Polymedia, Communication and Long Distance Relationships. International Journal of Cultural Studies 15 (5)1-19
2012 With Mirca Madianou, Should you accept a friends request from your mother. And other Filipino dilemmas. International Review of Social Research 2: 9-28
2012 The Digital and the Human: a prospectus for Digital Anthropology In Horst H and Miller, D. Eds. Digital Anthropology. Oxford: Berg 3-36
2012 Open Access, Scholarship and Digital Anthropology Hau 2: 395-411
*2013 People that make machines that script people. Anthropology of this Century 6: Issn 2047-6345
*2013 Not Getting the Internet Fair Observer 6-2-13
*2013 DR 2: What is the relationship between identities that people construct, express and consume online and those offline? Driver document for Future Identities: Changing identities in the UK – the next 10 years. London: Government Office for Science, 15pp - download it here.
Recent PhD Students
Alison Clarke - The Alternative Provisioning of the Moral Economy of the Household
Inge Daniels - The Fame of Miyajima: Spirituality Commodification and the Tourist Trade of Souvenirs in Japan
Adam Drazin - Care, Cleanliness and Consumption in Urban Romania
Pauline Garvey - 'Do It Yourself' Constructing the Individual and Defining Identity through Home Decoration in Norway
Jean-Sebastian Marcoux - The Experience of Mobility: An Anthropological Analysis of Tenants' Displacement in Montreal
Elia Petridou - Milk Ties: A Commodity Chain Approach to Greek Culture
Chang-Kwo Tan - Mediated Devotion: Tradition and Christianity amongst The Paiwan of Taiwan
Heather A. Horst - 'Back a Yaad': Constructions of Home among Jamaica's Return Migrant Community
Kaori O'Conner - Lycra, babyboomers and the immaterial culture of the new midlife.
Cleo Gougoulis - An Ethnography of Play in Phocea, Greece.
Anat Hecht -Past, place and people: an ethnography of museum consumption.
Sophie Woodward - Women, wardrobes and fashion.
Anna Cristina Pertierra - Battles, Inventions and Acquisitions, the struggle for consumption in urban Cuba.
Gabrielle Hosein - Everybody have to eat: politics and governance in Trinidad
Ivana Bajic - Belgrade parents and their diaspora children
Marjorie Murray - Madrid: cosmology and material culture
Magda Craciun - Fake branded clothing: an exploration of its presence in a European periphery
Wallis Motta – An ethnography of high-tech entrepreneurship in the Cambridge Technopole
Razvan Nicolescu - Boredom and Social Alignment in Rural Romania
Tom McDonald – Structures of Hosting in a south-western Chinese town
Current PhD students
Nick Gadsby - World of Warcraft
Elizabeth Stanfield - An ethnography of domesticity in the US
Julie Shackleford - Value and antiquities in the Middle East
Dia Flores - Debt and relationships in the British Filipino diaspora. The Philippines: internal migration and returned migrants from Japan
Aleksi Knuutila "Material culture without possession: An ethnography of web-mediated car sharing"
Ana Carolina Balthazar Ethnography in England to understand the relationship between consumption and magi
Ming-ting Cai The Power of Consumption: Material Practice and Youth Culture in Urban Vietnam
Xinyuan Wang – Social Media use amongst rural migrant factory workers in ZheJiang, China
Juliano Spyer – Social Media use and social mobility in Bahia, Brazil
Shriram Venktraman – Social media use and work-family relations in Chennai, India