Assembling the Transpacific

Links and Functions

Breadcrumb Navigation


Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities [ mat~con ]

A research initiative at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich

by Philipp Schorch and Martin Saxer


This initiative aims at collectively thinking through connectivity and materiality. Our starting point is simple: things that move and thereby connect or, the other way round, connections made through things are central to anthropology’s concerns. From the Kula Ring to the journeys of museum objects, from the travels of empire-founding Buddha statues to the logics and logistics of shipping containers, connectivity and materiality are interwoven in various but particular ways. Somewhat akin to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, we take connectivity and materiality not as defined properties of some-thing but as two interrelated modes in which an entity is, or rather is becoming, in a world. Thus, with materiality we do not mean the materials as such, but the underlying forces and potentialities as material entity. Likewise, connectivity does not denote a single connection, but the underlying mode of being or becoming connected with other entities. The question is how these two ways of existence relate and fold into each other to produce the realities we attempt to understand.

In order to solve this puzzle we plan two one-day workshops followed by a final one-day symposium. Each of the three events is designed to trace histories, dissect theories, scrutinize methodologies and contextualize ethnographies through a material lens with the common objective to reflect on and sharpen our anthropological inquiries. The first workshop, convened by Martin Saxer, will start by investigating connecting materialities / material connectivities in the highlands of Asia. Martin will lay out preliminary findings about topographies, pathways, material sediments and the potential of an ‘archaeology of the contemporary’, and use them to trigger the debate. The second workshop, convened by Philipp Schorch, is embedded in Oceanic worlds and sets out to disrupt the separation of object and subject through the deployment, interrogation and further development of a refined analytical vocabulary expressed through material ontologies, skills and languages.

The workshops are grounded in the particularities of highlands and seas, and based on two EU-funded projects conducted at the Institute. Yet, these are mere starting points for debate which will draw together participants’ experiences and observations from a variety of settings. We will identify similarities and points of friction, and carefully document the resulting discussion. The final symposium brings these threads into dialogue with the aim to identify a conceptual frame through which connecting materialities / material connectivities can be approached, studied and understood as transcultural, transregional and global phenomena.


  • One-day workshop convened by Martin Saxer in November 2015
  • One-day workshop convened by Philipp Schorch in July 2016
  • One-day symposium in February 2017


The historical, theoretical, methodological and ethnographic overlaps studied, as well as the common conceptual framework created, offer fertile grounds for further co-investigations moving beyond established regional and thematic foci. The three-event structure spanning fifteen months ensures that ideas have time to ripen before we harvest them. This approach – slow but nutritious food for the brain, so to say – will lead to a set of papers presented at the symposium that are much tighter interwoven than this is usually the case, and from which a special journal issue in an international peer-reviewed publication will be distilled. For participating students, the project will offer invaluable food for thought, the opportunity to publish a paper in the Institute’s working paper series, and develop Post-Doc and PhD topics of significant relevance for this opening terrain of academic research.

Related Events

28 Nov 2015
Material, Experience, and the Mobile
First workshop of the research initiative “Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities”

29 July 2016
Materials, Environments, and Curatorial Interventions
‘Second workshop of the research initiative “Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities”'

9 February 2017
Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities
International symposium at LMU Munich