This article addresses the relationship between light, material culture and social experiences. It argues that understanding light as a powerful social agent, in its relationship with people, things, colours, shininess and places, may facilitate an appreciation of the active social role of luminosity in the practice of day-to-day activities. The article surveys an array of past conceptions of light within philosophy, natural science and more recent approaches to light in the fields of anthropology and material culture studies. A number of implications are discussed, and by way of three case studies it is argued that light may be used as a tool for exercising social intimacy and inclusion, of shaping moral spaces and hospitality, and orchestrating movement, while working as a metaphor as well as a material agent in these social negotiations. The social comprehension of light is a means of understanding social positions in ways that may be real or imagined, but are bound up on the social and cultural associations of certain lightscapes.
Journal of Material Culture, 2007, Vol 12, Issue 3, p. 263-284
materiel kultur; agens; lys; antropologi; material culture; agency; light; anthropology