In between my own backlog of work and dispatching son back to the University of Warwick I have been listening and occasionally contributed to discussion around my daughter’s two final year essays for her Anthropology Course. One of those is on the power of the container that is the Coca-Cola bottle. I’m learning through the process – for the first year and a half my own reading over decades kept me ahead of her but I am now falling behind! The subject is all about how objects mediate messages across space and time between people who are not co-present.
I hadn’t known that Coca-Cola was marketed in Hitler’s Germany and that prisoners of war were surprised that Americans had the drink. I knew that bottling operations around the world were key to Coca-Cola’s strategy, but I had realised that anthropologists see this as displacing responsibility to local suppliers for all sorts of ethical and other issues. The form of the “mediating object” and the functional possibilities it incorporates determine attention and the wider role within material cultures (a lot of Dant 1999:154 here). That gives me some new insights to work I am doing on brand.
I now have to read up on material cultures (most of my anthropology has been pure cultural anthropology and the intersection of anthropology and biology. That will be interesting, but its far more interesting to talk with your own offspring and sense their joy of discovery around words, concepts and ideas. Paradoxically talking about containment is uncontained.