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Susanne Kuechler

Susanne Kuechler

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8644

Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 8632


Room: G18

Prof. Susanne Kuechler (Kűchler) –(Fogden)
MA (FU Berlin), PhD (London School of Economics and Political Sciences)

in the Department of Anthropology, Head of Department (2010-2015)
Professor of Material Culture
Member of Steering Committee of The Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies
Executive Member of Sus.Div. (Sustainable Diversity In a Diverse World)
Co-Editor of Journal of Material Culture
Co-Editor of Art In Translation
Director of Masters Programme in Culture, Materials and Design

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Susanne Küchler obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 1985 working under Alfred Gell. Her earlier training had involved teaching in social anthropology both at the Free University of Berlin and at the LSE, with three consecutive periods of internships at the Übersee Museum Bremen (Germany). A period of 2 years of field-research on the North-west coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea led to a long-term and systematic research into collections of sculptures and allied ethnographic collections from the area, known as Malanggan, and a theoretical interest in the relation between art and memory, visual analogy and transformation, material translation, intuition and empathy. These themes were initially investigated in relation to Melanesian ethnography and used to critique ‘image blind’ theories of exchange. More recently, comparative and theoretically focused research has led to work on the representational logic of sacrificial economy. Most of this research is written up for publication as part of the manuscript under preparation.

Research on Malanggan provoked further study into innovation, design and social change as part of a collaborative research project involving the British Museum and Goldsmiths College. Clothing the Pacific examined the take-up and transformation of cloth and clothing introduced by missionaries and traders into the Pacific during the early 19th century, based on archival research and ethnographic fieldwork. Fieldwork on patchwork quilts in the Cook Islands, Eastern Polynesia, examined the effect of the uptake of a new material on society, honing in on the material, technical and cognitive processes involved in material translation and the nature of empathy with things. Recent research conducted as part of the European Project on Sustainable Development in a Diverse World examined the relation between material aesthetics and the emergence of transnational societies, bringing together data from Pacific Diaspora with comparative data collected in European cities.

Research into material translation, new materials & new technologies is conducted into prototypes designed in Euro-American research laboratories. Current research is directed to an ethnographic exploration of the nature and perception of materials, with special reference to networks of knowledge transmission active linking centres of innovation to the materials industry and sectors of design. Ethnographic research is piloted into centres of research and innovation, and into sites of materials manufacture, design and marketing. The research is conducted in close collaboration with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, London (IOM3).

A parallel running research project is directed to cognition and design, with emphasis on the materiality of algorithm, proportioning, scaling as informing technical processes and calculation.

Küchler held posts at the University of East Anglia and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, before joining UCL in 1991.

Recent and selected Indicators of Esteem

2011 Invited Lecture at the Design Theory Symposium, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany

2010 Invited Lecture at Bard Graduate Centre for History of Art, Design History and Material Culture, New York

2010 Invited to Advise the Commission for the Humboldt Zentrum, Berlin

2009, 2010, 2011 Serving on the Research Grant Committee of the Volkswagenwerk Research Foundation, with reference to collaborative research between Museums and Universities.

2005-2006 Invited Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study), Germany.

1995-1996 Invited Scholar in Residence at J. Paul Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities, Los Angeles

1989-1990 J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship in The History of Art and The Humanities, Los Angeles.

Research groups:

Material, Visual and Digital Culture Research Group, UCL Sustainability, Environment and Development Research Group

Science of the Concrete: the Materials and Techniques of Ontologies

Cultures of Materials Consortium, including the Institute of Making at King’s College London, IOM3, and the RCA.

Research projects:

New Material, New Technologies: Innovation, Society and Future

Art and Cultural Dialogue: Executive Member and Task-group leader of EU Project Sus.Div: Sustainable Development in a Diverse World

Clothing The Pacific: An ESRC funded Study of Material Innovation and Social Change

Research interests

  1. New Materials, New Technologies and Society: their innovation, take-up, classification and transmission
  2. Anthropology of Design
  3. Anthropology of Clothing
  4. Material-aesthetics and the anthropology of art
  5. Pacific anthropology and ethnographic collections research
  6. Image systems and knowledge based economies in the Pacific (Melanesia and Cook Islands)

Selected publications

Selected recent articles:

2010 “The Prototype in Art”. Special Issue Journal of Visual Communication Vol 9 No 3: 301-313. (pdf)

2010 “Materials and Design”. In Alison Clarke (ed) The Anthropology of Design. H.C. Beck: 130-145. (pdf)

2009 “Empathie avec la Matière.” With G. Were. In Technologies edited by Ludovic Coupaye&Laurence Douny. Techniques & Cultures, 52-53: 190-212. (pdf)

2008 “Technological Materiality: Beyond the Dualist Paradigm”. Theory, Culture and Society. Vol 25(1):101-120. (pdf)

Book Publications:

2002 Malanggan: Art, Memory and Sacrifice. Oxford: Berg (short-listed for 2003)

2005 Pacific Pattern. London: Thames&Hudson; with Graeme Were and Photographer Glenn Jowitt

2009 Tvaivai: The Social Fabric of the Cook Islands London: British Museum Press; with Andrea Eimke. 
  In preparation: The Material Mind: An Anthropology of Culture and Design.

: eds Festivals and Diversity: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. With Hisham Elkadi and Lazslo Kurti. London: Sean Kingston Publishing
  Forthcoming: Art of Oceania. London: Thames&Hudson. With Peter Brunt, Nicholas Thomas, Lissant Bolton, Sean Mellon, Damien Skinner, Deidre Wilson.

2009 eds. Diversity Management in Practice: A cross-cultural & multidisciplinary bibliography addressing policy and wellbeing. With Sandra Wallmann. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

2006 eds. The Handbook of Material Culture. With C. Tilley, M. Rowlands, W. Keane, P. Spyer. London: Sage

2005 eds. The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience. London: University College Press. With G. Were

2005 eds. Clothing as Material Culture. Oxford: Berg With D. Miller

1999 eds. The Art of Forgetting Oxford: Berg with A. Forty

1991 eds. Images of Memory: On Representation and Remembering. Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press. With W. Melio

Chapters in Books:

“Making Skins: Mimesis and the Character of Kinship in a New Guinea

Society.” In: Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics." A. Shelton and J, Coote eds. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 94-118. 1992

“Landscape as Memory: The Mapping of Process and its Representation in a Melanesian Society.” In: Landscape: Politics and Perspectives. ed B. Bender. Oxford, Berg. 85-106. 1993

“The Past is a Foreign Country”. In Debates in Social Anthropology GDAT, edited by T. Ingold. Manchester, Manchester University Press. 65-78. 1994

“The Place of Memory.” In The Art of Forgetting. Eds. A. Forty and S. Küchler. Oxford: Berg. 53-73. 1999

“Why knot? Towards a Theory of Art and Mathematics.” In: Beyond Aesthetics: Essays in Memory of Alfred Gell. Eds. C. Pinney and N. Thomas. Oxford: Berg. 57-71. 2001.

“The Art of Ethnography: The Case of Sophie Calle.” In: de,-dis,-ex,- edited by Alex Coles. Black Dog Publishing Limited. 94-114. 2001

“The Manifold in Art and Science.” In: Trace, Memory, Materiality and Context in Contemporary Art. eds E. Thomas and A. Dimitrakaki. Cair, Liverpool: Centre for International Research. 52-57. 2002.

“Art and Anthropology.” In: The Material Culture Reader, edited by V. Buchli. Oxford: Berg. 57-81. 2002

“From Poncho to Quilt.” In: Cloth Nexus, edited by Chloe Colchester. Oxford: Berg. 97-119. 2003

“Rethinking Attachment”. In: Law, Anthropology and the Constitution of the Social eds. A.Pottage and M. Mundy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 234-249. 2004.

“Materiality and Cognition: the Changing Face of Things.” In: Materiality, edited by D. Miller. Duke University Press. 206-231. 2005.

“Why are there Quilts in Polynesia.” In: Clothing as Material Culture, eds S. Küchler and D. Miller. Oxford: Berg. 175-193. 2005.

“Introduction” to The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience. University College Press. xix-xxx. (2005).

“Knot-sculpture between Art and Mathematics.” In: Anthropology looks at Artists. eds A. Schneider and C. Wright. Oxford: Berg. 2005.

“Totenrituale und Ihre Objekte.” In: Totenkulte, edited by Patrick Eiden, Frankfurt, Campus Verlag. 183-217. 2006.

Contributions to the Catalogue Art de la Nouvelle-Irlande, edited by Michael Gunn and P. Peltier, The Public Institution of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Chapters on ‘Ritual Context’, ‘Life-Force and Body Concepts’, ‘Dream’, ‘Death and Memory’, ‘Vavara’, ‘Malagan Ritual Context.’ 2007.

“Was Dinge Tun: Eine anthropologische Kritik medialer Dingtheorie.” in Ferus,K., Ruebel,D. (ed.) Die Tuecke des Objektes. Schriftenreihe der Isa Lohmann-Siems Stiftung series. Series edited by Wolf-Dieter Hauenschild, Thomas Hengartner, Bruno Reudenbach. Berlin: Reimer Verlag GMBH, 230-249, 2009.

“Mapping Diversity: The Case of Porta Portese.” in Bracalenti,R., Boehme,V., Forsyth,K., Geisbusch,J., Kuechler,S., Stenius,V. (ed.) Porta Portese: The Local Market, Immigration, and Diversity. Rome: ; Editioni dell'Universita Populare. With Jan Geisbusch, 2009.

“Material Culture in the City: Consumption, Diversity and Sustainability in City Neigbourhoods”. In: The Sustainability of Cultural Diversity edited by Maddy Janssens Cheltenham,UK: Edward Elgar: 159-178. 2010. With Rossella LoConte.

“Materials and Design”. In Alison Clarke (ed) The Anthropology of Design.Vienna: Springer: 130-145. 2010

Forthcoming (Spring 2011): “Der Theoretische Anspruch von Malanggan”. In Marcus Schindlebeck ed. Malanggan in Forschung und Museum.

Refereed Articles:

"Malangan of Nombowai" in: Oral History, Journal of the Institute of PNG Studies. Vol. X1, No. 2, 1983, pp: 65-98.

"Malangan: Art and Memory in a Melanesian Society." Man (N.S.) 1987. Vol 22, pp: 238-255.

"Malangan: Objects, Sacrifice, and the Production of Memory." American Ethnologist, 1988. Vol 15 (4), pp: 626-639.

“Symbolic Reminders.” Faces, New Hampshire, Cobblestone Publishing. 36-37. 1996.

“The Liquidation of Material Things.” Archaeological Dialogues 1996. Vo. 3 No 1. 26-29.

“Sacrificial Economy and its Objects: Rethinking Colonial Collecting in

Oceania.” Journal of Material Culture Vol.2 (1): 23-68. 1997

“Binding in the Pacific: The Case of Malanggan” Oceania. 1999. Vol 69 (3): 145-157.

“From Art to Mathematics: The Cataloguing of Visual Information in Museums” Journal of Museum Ethnography. 1999. No 11: 1-14.

“Imaging the Body Politic: the Knot in Pacific Imagination” L’Homme 2002.Vol 165, 205-233.

“Clothing and Innovation: A Pacific Perspective” at: anthropology today. with G. Were. 2003. Vol 19(2):3-6

“Rethinking Textile: The Advent of the Smart Fibre Surface” Textile: Culture and History 2003.Vol 1 (3): 262-273.

“On Art and Mathematics” in: Art and Archaeology, ed. A. Barrowclout, Archaeological Review from Cambridge. Art and Archaeology: Unmasking Material Culture. 2004. Vol 19(1): 28-46

“The Modality of Time-Maps: Quilting from another point of view”. Res: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics. 47, 2005: 179-190.

“De las materias que trabajan: una leccion para la anthropolgia” In: La Cultura Sensible; Anthropolgie et Societes. edited by D. Howes and J.P. Marcoux. Special Issue of Canadian Journal of Anthropology and Society. 2006, Vol 30 (3): 125-139.

“The String in Art and Science: Rediscovering the Material Mind”. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. Vol 5(2): 124-140., Summer 2007

“Technological Materiality: Beyond the Dualist Paradigm”. Theory, Culture and Society. Vol 25(1):101-120. 2008

“Empathie avec la Matière.” With G. Were. In Technologies edited by Ludovic Coupaye&Laurence Douny. Techniques & Cultures, 52-53: 190-212.

“The Prototype in 20th Century Art”. Special Issue Journal of Visual Communication Vol 9 No 3: 301-312..2010



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