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Heterogeneous cloth: an ethnography of the coming into being of barkcloth artefacts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and amongst the Nuaulu of Nua Nea Village, Maluku, Eastern Indonesia

Brennan, E; (2017) Heterogeneous cloth: an ethnography of the coming into being of barkcloth artefacts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and amongst the Nuaulu of Nua Nea Village, Maluku, Eastern Indonesia. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis uses barkcloth artefacts as a methodological point of entry and fieldsite, to explore their material properties. It argues that the material properties of barkcloth artefacts are indexical of social relations, as it moves between contexts; exploring the nature of properties as inherently diverse or diversely exploited, rather than homogenously embedded. The thesis argues that properties are processual, and uses the operational sequence or chaîne opératoire as a route to beginning to unpack the attribution of these qualities. The thesis follows the material through two distinct contexts; beginning with a collection of barkcloth artefacts in the Economic Botany Collection, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Here artefacts illustrate the relationship between people and plants through technical process; and are packed within the botanical episteme and a British history of material relations, exploitation and development. From within the collections store, laboratory, and herbarium at Kew, material origins and structure are foregrounded as inherent to material identity. From Kew, research relocates to Maluku in eastern Indonesia; to a region situated historically as foundational in the exploitation of plant ‘resources’ and botanical exploration. Thematically then, the region is congruous with the Kew context. Nuaulu barkcloth artefacts, as explored in Nua Nea village, on Seram island are efficacious in male life-transformation rituals, and clan constitution. Barkcloth properties are generative and contingent. The efficacy of these artefacts is inseparable from the proximal dynamics as managed through their ongoing coming into being: bodily, temporal and territorial. A processual approach to barkcloth artefacts’ material properties across contexts allows access to the nature and diversity of the relationships between humans and non-humans: in this case, with plants, and trees. This is in what plant materials are able to reflect back at us, as transformed living kinds.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Heterogeneous cloth: an ethnography of the coming into being of barkcloth artefacts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and amongst the Nuaulu of Nua Nea Village, Maluku, Eastern Indonesia
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10037521
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