Daniel Miller (anthropologist)
Daniel Miller (born 1954) is an anthropologist most closely associated with studies of our relationships to things and the consequences of consumption. His theoretical work was first developed in Material Culture and Mass Consumption and is summarized more recently in his book Stuff. This is concerned to transcend the usual dualism between subject and object and to study how social relations are created through consumption as an activity.
Miller was originally trained in archaeology and anthropology at the University of Cambridge but has spent his entire professional life at the Department of Anthropology, University College London which has become a research center for the study of material culture and where more recently he established the world’s first programme dedicated to the study of digital anthropology.
A prolific author, Miller criticises the concept of materialism which presumes our relationships to things are at the expense of our relationship to persons. He argues that most people are either enabled to form close relationships to both persons and objects or have difficulties with both.
With his students he has applied these ideas to many genres of material culture such as clothing, homes, media and the car, through research based on the methods of traditional anthropological ethnography in regions including the Caribbean, India and London. In the study of clothing, his work ranges from a book on the Sari in India to more recent research explaining the popularity of blue jeans and the way they exemplify the struggle to become ordinary. His initial work on the consequences of the internet for Trinidad was followed by studies of the impact of mobile phones on poverty in Jamaica and more recently the way Facebook has changed the nature of social relationships.
His work on material culture also includes ethnographic research on how people develop relationships of love and care through the acquisition of objects in shopping and how they deal with issues of separation and loss including death through their retention and divestment of objects. He argues that since we cannot control death as an event, we use our ability to control the gradual separation from the objects associated with the deceased as a way of dealing with loss. Complementary to this work on separation from things are three books about shopping, the most influential of which, A Theory of Shopping, looks at how the study of everyday purchases can be a route to understanding how love operates within the family. He has also carried out several projects on female domestic labour and being a mother, including studies of au pairs, and Filipina women in London and their relationship to their left behind children in the Philippines. Most of these projects are collaborations.
Since the early 2000s, he has been researching the effects of new social media on society. Several of his most recent books explore topics such as cell phones, Facebook and transnational families. Together with presenting a theoretical framework for studying social networking sites, his latest work has proposed a new concept of 'polymedia' as an analytical tool to examine the consequences of a situation where individuals configure and are held responsible for their choice of media, while access and cost recede as factors.
In 2012 he launched a five-year project called Social Networking and Social Sciences Research Project, to examine the global impact of new social media. The study will be based on ethnographic data collected through the course of 15 months in China, India, Turkey, Italy, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Brazil. The project is funded by the European Research Council.
- (1984) Miller, D. and Tilley, C. (Eds.) Ideology, Power and Prehistory. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
- (1985) Artefacts As Categories: A study of Ceramic Variability in Central India. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
- (1987) Material Culture and Mass Consumption. Basil Blackwell: Oxford.
- (1989) Miller, D., Rowlands, M. and Tilley, C. Eds. Domination and Resistance. Unwin Hyman: London.
- (1993) (Ed.) Unwrapping Christmas. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
- (1994) Modernity - An Ethnographic Approach: Dualism and mass consumption in Trinidad. Berg: Oxford.
- (1995) (Ed.) Acknowledging Consumption. Routledge. London.
- (1995) (Ed.) Worlds Apart - Modernity Through the Prism of the Local. Routledge: London.
- (1997) Capitalism - An Ethnographic Approach. Oxford: Berg.
- (1998) (Ed.) Material Cultures. London: UCL Press/University of Chicago Press.
- (1998) A Theory of Shopping. Cambridge: Polity Press/Cornell University Press.
- (1998) With P. Jackson, M. N. Thrift B. Holbrook and N. Thrift. Shopping, Place and Identity. London: Routledge.
- (1998) With J. Carrier. Virtualism: a new political economy. Oxford: Berg.
- (2000) With D. Slater The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach. Oxford:Berg.
- (2000) With P. Jackson, M. Lowe and F. Mort (Eds.) Commercial Cultures: economies, practices, spaces. Oxford: Berg.
- (2001) The Dialectics of Shopping (The 1998 Morgan Lectures) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- (2001) (Ed.) Car Cultures. Oxford: Oxford: Berg.
- (2001) (Ed.) Acknowledging Consumption (four volumes) London: Routledge.
- (2001) (Ed.) Home Possession: Material culture behind closed doors. Oxford: Berg.
- (2003) With Mukulika Banerjee. The Sari. Oxford: Berg.
- (2005) (Ed.) with Suzanne Küchler. Clothing as Material Culture. Oxford: Berg.
- (2005) (Ed.) Materiality. Durham: Duke University Press.
- (2006) With Heather Horst. The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. Oxford: Berg.
- (2008) The Comfort of Things. Polity: Cambridge.
- (2009) (Ed.) Anthropology and the Individual: a material culture perspective. Oxford: Berg.
- (2010) Stuff. Cambridge: Polity.
- (2010) With Zuzana Búriková. Au-Pair. Cambridge: Polity.
- (2011) With Sophie Woodward (Eds.) Global Denim. Oxford: Berg.
- (2011) Tales from Facebook. Cambridge: Polity.
- (2011) With Sophie Woodward. Blue Jeans: The art of the ordinary. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- (2011) Weihnachten - Das globale Fest (in German) Suhrkamp.
- (2012) With Mirca Madianou. Migration and New Media: Transnational Families and Polymedia. London: Routledge.
- (2012) Consumption and its Consequences. Cambridge: Polity.
- (2012) Edited with Heather Horst. Digital Anthropology. Oxford: Berg.
- (2013) With Jolynna Sinanan. Webcam. Cambridge: Polity.
- Current listings of all Daniel Miller's publications
- Faculty page at UCL
- ERC/UCL Social networking and social science research project
- MSc in Digital Anthropology at UCL
- Miller, Daniel and Horst, H. (2006). The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. Oxford: Berg.
- Miller, Daniel. (2011). Tales from Facebook. Cambridge: Polity.
- Miller, Daniel and Madianou, M. (2012). Migration and New Media: Transnational Families and Polymedia. London: Routledge.
- Miller, Daniel and Horst, H. Editors (2012) Digital Anthropology. Oxford: Berg.
- Miller, Daniel (2013). DR 2: What is the relationship between identities that people construct, express and consume online and those offline? in Future Identities: Changing identities in the UK – the next 10 years. Foresight, p.6.