The Cultural Power of Personal Objects

Traditional Accounts and New Perspectives

Edited by Jared Kemling

Subjects: Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, History
Hardcover : 9781438486178, 413 pages, December 2021
Paperback : 9781438486161, 413 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents



Part I: Traditional Accounts

1. Mereology: Wholes, Parts, and the Big Thicket
Pete A. Y. Gunter

2. Personality in Seagoing Ships
Marc M. Anderson

3. Personified Objects and Objectified Persons in Ancient Egypt
Martin Pehal

4. Seeing and Time: Personal Divinity in the Object of Hindu Devotion
John W. August III

5. Convergence and Divergence of Spirit: Tsukumogami and the Personality of Objects
Kevin C. Taylor

6. The Journey of the Javanese Keris
Alan G. Maisey

7. Cherokee Nonhuman Persons in Dual Realms
Carrie McLachlan

8. The Quilt as Personal Object
Sasha L. Biro

Part II: New Perspectives

9. The New Materialism: A Critique
Michael Jackson

10. Constituting Personal Objects, Constituting Persons
Dwayne A. Tunstall

11. A Personalized Cultural World: A Cassireran Phenomenology of Personalized Intuition
Jared Kemling

12. The Comfort of Things: Personal Objects, Possession, Dwelling, and the Desire to Be God in Sartre and Levinas
James McLachlan

13. Have We Effectively Made Money a Person and Ourselves Its Corporeal Embodiment?
Helen Grela

14. Wampum, Person, and the Life of Exchange
Randall Auxier

15. How My Piano Uses Gendlin's Focusing Method
Ralph D. Ellis

16. Meditating on the Vitality of the Musical Object: A Spiritual Exercise Drawn from Richard Wagner's Metaphysics of Music
Eli Kramer

17. Bring Out Your Dead: Human Bodies, Cultural Objects, and Personality
Laura J. Mueller

18. Sex Robots and Solipsism: Towards a Culture of Empty Contact
Charles W. Harvey


Historical and theoretical discussions that describe and reflect on personal objects from a variety of perspectives.


The Cultural Power of Personal Objects seeks to understand the value and efficacy of objects, places, and times that take on cultural power and reverence to such a degree that they are treated (whether metaphorically or actually) as "persons," or as objects with "personality"—they are living objects. Featuring both historical and theoretical sections, the volume details examples of this practice, including the wampum of certain Native American tribes, the tsukumogami of Japan, the sacred keris knives of Java, the personality of seagoing ships, the ritual objects of Hinduism and Ancient Egypt, and more. The theoretical contributions aim to provide context for the existence and experience of personal objects, drawing from a variety of disciplines. Offering a variety of new philosophical perspectives on the theme, while grounding the discussion in a historical context, The Cultural Power of Personal Objects broadens and reinvigorates our understanding of cultural meaning and experience.

Jared Kemling teaches philosophy at Rend Lake College.