Studio 12: The Voice of Things

Lesley Stevenson

This studio will offer a challenge to the idea that objects are unruly things and need to be brought to heel by labelling, categorizing, taxonomizing.  Instead, it offers an invitation to give voice to the mute and invisible, by listening to objects and treating them as allies. We will deploy a variety of different approaches, including material culture studies, co-ethnography, poetics, cultural studies, and phenomenology, in considering a series of case studies of overlooked, marginalized and ephemeral objects. Our aim will be to confront the hegemony of the anthropocentric and reawaken a sense of wonder in the everyday.

If you want to write about objects then this studio could provide you with conceptual and methodological tools. You may want to write about designed objects or natural objects, but we will also consider photographs and fine art as examples of material culture as much as aesthetic objects. The focus will be on the quotidian, the throwaway and the domestic, rather than the grand, spectacular and overwhelming.

Suggested reading

  • Appadurai, A. (2013) The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Baudrillard, J. (1996) The System of objects, London: Verso
  • Bogot, I. (2012) Alien Phenomenology or what it’s like to be a Thing, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  • Brown, B. (2001) ‘Thing Theory’, Critical Inquiry, 28:1, 1–22
  • Candlin, F. and Guins, R. (2009) The Object Reader, London: Routledge
  • Edwards, E. and Hart, J. (eds) (2004) Photographs Objects Histories: on the Materiality of Images, London and New York, Routledge
  • Gibbons, J. (2007) Contemporary Art and Memory, London: IB Tauris
  • Highmore, B. (2002) Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: an Introduction, London: Routledge
  • Highmore, B. (2009) The Design Culture Reader, London: Routledge. Kwint, M., Breward, C. and Aynsley, J. (eds) (1999) Material memories: design and evocation, Oxford: Berg
  • Kwint, M., Breward, C. and Aynsley, J. (eds) (1999) Material memories: design and evocation, Oxford: Berg.
  • Miller, D. (2013) The Comfort of Things, London: Polity
  • Miller, D. (ed.) (2002) Material Cultures: Why some Things Matter, London: Routledge
    Norman, D. A. The Design of Everyday Things, Cambridge Mass.
  • Preda, A. (1999) ‘The Turn to Things: Arguments for a Sociology of Things’, The Sociological Quarterly,  40:2, 347-366
  • Schwenger, P. (2006) The Tears of Things, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  • Shapton, L. (2009) Important artifacts and personal property from the collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris, including books, street fashion and jewelry[sic], London: Bloomsbury
  • Steedman, C. (2001) Dust, Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Stewart, S. (1993) On longing, Durham and London: Duke University Press
  • Turkle, S. (ed) (2007) Evocative Objects: things we Think with, Cambridge Mass.: MIT

Novels you might like to read

  • Baker, Nicholson The Mezzanine
  • Perec, Georges Life: a User’s Manual



The title of the studio comes from the French poet, Francis Ponge. His work is available in translation and it useful to look at for an idea of the range of things one can write about and how to write about them.

Page Banner: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019

Souvenir – Lesley Stevenson, Objects suspended and floating


Tutor Lesley Stevenson


Dissertation Studios 2022–23