You are best off approaching this book with an open mind. For the most part it is written in a clear and accessible style. It is about our relation to our material possessions. However it is written from the perspective of an anthropologist with a magpie mind. So the book is filled with interesting snippets, the material on saris, the various potted ethnographic studies, the scholarly excursions to see if inconvenient people can be made to fit some grand social sciences theory.
It covers clothing, material goods, houses, and media, but in a rather patchy and unsystematic fashion. There is no overarching theory here, but plenty of worthwhile insights.
Miller tries various theories for size, but in the end, people seem a little too inconvenient and anthropology ends up offering some narrative explanations for why some people are the way they are, and it is possible to feel a degree of empathy for them, in some cases it can be genuinely affecting.
If you were to take this book seriously it would drive you mad, the author uses himself as an example at one point, he flamboyantly parades theories only to find them wanting. But underneath it is a humane and engaging book. It is like one of those end of term lectures where a professor wears his learning lightly, and spins fanciful tales packed with scholarly jokes, but with some deep truths in there too.
It is a rich fruit cake of a book, perhaps too rich and quirky for some people, but if you are in the right frame of mind it is thought provoking, entertaining and well worth re-reading.
on 20 January 2015
Like all of Miller's books, this is another example for a text that is easily accessible, yet highly thought-provoking and relevant to a variety of fields. As a filmmaker, I love this book as it inspires my treatment of human subjectivity.