Architectural Anthropology: Fieldwork among buildings

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Architecture and anthropology have always had a common focus on dwelling, housing, urban life and spatial organisation. Current developments in both disciplines make it even more relevant to explore their boundaries and overlaps. Architects are inspired by anthropological insights and methods, while recent material and spatial turns in anthropology have also brought an increasing interest in design, architecture and the built environment. Understanding the relationship between the social and the physical is at the heart of both disciplines, and they can obviously benefit from further collaboration: How can qualitative anthropological approaches contribute to contemporary architecture? And just as importantly: What can anthropologists learn from architects’ understanding of spatial and material surroundings? Recent theoretical developments in anthropology stress the role of materials and things, but if things can speak, as post-humanist approaches have suggested (Holbraad 2011), what tools do anthropologists actually have to hear what they are saying? How can we make fieldwork not just in, but also among buildings? What methods and approaches can anthropologists employ to understand and maybe also contribute to architectural design and the shaping of built environments? Through various empirical examples this paper explores the challenges and potentials of architectural anthropology.

Original languageEnglish
Publication dateJul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Event2015 IUAES Inter-Congress - Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand
Duration: 15 Jul 201517 Jul 2015


Conference2015 IUAES Inter-Congress
LocationThammasat University


  • Architecture
  • Anthropology
  • Fieldwork

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