Secret Life of Things: Material Culture

Subject HIST40038 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2015.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

10 hours per week: total time commitment 120 hours


Usually admission to the postgraduate diploma or fourth-year honours in history (or a relevant program) or enrolment in a relevant coursework Masters program



Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Assoc Prof Andrew May

Subject Overview:

What role have objects, artefacts and places played in the shaping of culture? Are we 'prisoners' of objects'? This subject engages critical approaches to objects as emissaries of culture. Field trips and class-based explorations of the everyday world of objects, many of which we take for granted, stress the importance of things as sources of evidence unavailable in written texts or documents. Through addressing the importance and meaning of everyday things, insights will be gained into technology, consumer society, gender, popular culture, ethnic identity, and the built environment. Through discussions of making, losing, exchanging, inventing, collecting, desiring, inheriting, eating and recycling things, students will learn to interpret objects in their historical context.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject will

  • understand significant issues in the theory and practice of material culture analysis
  • be able to evaluate and synthesise the research and professional literature in the discipline
  • show the application of historical artefact analysis in a practical research area

An artefact statement of significance (1000 words) 25% (due mid-semester), and a research essay of 4000 words 75% (due at the end of semester).

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to pass this subject. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 2% per working day. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who complete this subject will

  • show an advanced understanding of the changing knowledge base in the specialist area.
  • be able to evaluate and synthesise the research and professional literature in the discipline.
  • have an appreciation of the design, conduct and reporting of original research.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 150 point program - full time over 18 months
200 point program - full time over 18 months
200 point program - full time over 24 months
Cultural Studies
Cultural Studies
Cultural Studies

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