How to do things with things

Human Studies 19 (4):365 - 384 (1996)
Abstract
J.L. Austin has demonstrated that people can do things—bring about social facts — with words. Here we describe how some people do things with things. This is a study of the symbolic use and situated history of material objects during a business negotiation between two German entrepreneurs: of the practical transformation of things-at-hand from objects of use into exemplars, or into forms-at-hand that can be used for the construction of transitory symbolic artifacts. Arranging boxes in a particular fashion can be the equivalent of an illocutionary act, but unlike words things remain on the scene as indexical monuments to prior interactional arrangements.
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