Objects, Words, and Bodies in Space: Bringing Materiality into Cultural Analysis

Wendy Griswold, Gemma Mangione, Terence E. McDonnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


What can actor-network theory's approach to analyzing objects offer to cultural sociology? To answer this question we ask a more specific one: How does materiality affect people's experience of art in a museum exhibition? Research at two museums suggests that non-human agents-object and words-interact with human bodies to choreograph the art encounter. This process works through interactions between two processes of emplacement: physical position and cognitive location. Position guides location in the process of meaning-making, a relationship mediated by three mechanisms: distance, legibility, and orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-364
Number of pages22
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Actor-network theory
  • Art
  • Cultural sociology
  • Materiality
  • Meaning
  • Museums

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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