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Sociology of objects case study: Terra-Cotta playing hide-and-seek in the art worlds
Music and Arts in Action
University of Exeter
Sociological inquiry has been mostly absent from the investigation of massproduced material goods, especially materials in the architectural arts. If sociology takes as a subject social networks in modern society—one of whose chief characteristics is mass production—then the “mutually determining” relationships between the material results of mass-production and social networks should have a central place in sociological study. Art worlds are constructed both by people and the objects they work with: people make objects which, in turn, influence people in an ongoing dialectic. By tracing aspects of architectural terra-cotta production through the modern period, this paper demonstrates that the specific investigation of a mass-produced art object, which is also a unique architectural and sculptural material, both lends itself to particular social networks in its use and creation and also brings greater richness to issues of sociological concern, including the importance of how the object itself plays a role in social networks, the exploration of architecture as art worlds, and the use of Becker’s “art worlds” concept to study mass production. In doing so, this article contributes new aspects of investigation to the study of art worlds, such as topics related to the roles of geography, technology, finances, mass media, labor competition, fashion, identity, durability and public safety, in combination with one another.
Vol. 2, No. 1, pp.3-20