In this study, we present findings from a collaborative ethnographic study with urban Inuit in Ottawa, Canada. We investigate “talk around objects” as a meaningful learning activity and a prism of human-object relationships. Focusing on Inuit clothing – namely the Inuit-made parka (winter coat) and amauti (a traditional Inuit baby carrier) – we examine the impact of everyday objects on social interaction, with a particular emphasis on the effects of materiality on talk. More specifically, we explore the role of objects and object design in mobilizing particular forms of narratives, which project meaning across contexts of time, space, activity, and generations. Accordingly, we conceptualize the impact of objects as “joins” in trans-contextual meaning-making and point to their significance in Inuit learning and in serving to shape human-object relationships. We see the contribution of this article to this special issue as twofold. Not only does it explore “talk around objects” as an instance of co-agency, in which humans and objects contribute jointly to the shaping of talk; but it also emphasizes the role of objects as “joins”, enabling and sustaining the connection of people with each other and with the environment, within and across contexts. Such a perspective relates to post-human theory, which considers the agency of things in social interaction, while acknowledging an Inuit worldview, which rejects anthropocentrism.

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Keywords Human-object relationships, Inuit sewing, linguistic ethnography, re-mediation, trans-contextuality, urban Inuit
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Journal Social Semiotics
Budach, G. (Gabriele), Patrick, D, & Mackay, T. (Teevi). (2015). “Talk around objects”: designing trajectories of belonging in an urban Inuit community. Social Semiotics, 25(4), 446–464. doi:10.1080/10350330.2015.1059575