This excellent book by Bjornar Olsen provides us with the best critical survey of material culture studies currently available. He also shows how writing about 'things' from an archaeological perspective makes new theoretical contributions. -- Michael Rowlands, University College London Since the emergence of 'material culture studies' in the 1980s, there has been a growing need for a more fundamental rethinking of the nature of material things. This excellent book is one of the most sustained and sophisticated attempts that has been made to grapple with the problems of the tangible world, and it is to be unreservedly recommended. -- Julian Thomas, University of Manchester Much recent theoretical discourse in archaeology is focused on active, relational objects conceived as entanglements,assemblages, and bundles of things. In Defense of Things is a timely, highly readable explication of the ideas and philosophy behind this turn towards object ontologies. Social scientists and particularly archaeologists interested in materiality studies could not ask for a more lucid introduction to the issues in play. Olsen's central thesis is echoed in recent works by Nicole Boivin, Ian Hodder, Chris Webmoor and Tim Witmore, and Carl Knappett and Lambros Malafouris, among others. Inspired by Merleau-Ponty as well as by Latour, Olsen argues that it is time for social scientists to transcend the material/ideal split that is the heritage of Cartesian philosophy, and to give things their proper due as central to human existence. His self-avowed 'bricolage' approach to the topic contains very clear, concise discussions of key literature and ideas, thankfully without the hubristic language that distracts from the writings of some of his colleagues... I highly recommend this book as an elegant, well-written, well-reasoned introduction to the recent turn toward object ontologies in archaeology. Journal of Design History In Defense of Things is both an unequivocal sign of paradigm change and of the maturity achieved by archaeological thinking. As one of the three most important books in archaeology over the last decade, it deserves to become the reference book of archaeological theory for the next two, at least. Moreover, it places archaeology on an equal footing with other social sciences: this, in itself, is a profound contribution. Archaeolog
About the Author
Bjornar Olsen is professor of archaeology at the University of Troms', Norway.