Accepted paper:

Constructing and appropriating the "healthy stone-pine bed": home furnishing within discourses of health, nature and tradition


Ana Ionescu (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

On the basis of ethnographic research into the production and consumption of a piece of furniture (in this case the stone-pine bed), this paper investigates the way objects within the domestic sphere mediate cultural discourses and practices around ideas of health, nature and tradition.

Paper long abstract:

In western Alpine regions stone pine (lat. pinus cembra) has for a long period of time been used as timber for furniture and carvings and was traditionally associated with alpine rusticity. After, in 2003, a renowned Austrian research institute found out that persons sleeping in a stone-pine bed have a reduced heart rate, stone pine appeared on the market in the form of a new product. The "healthy stone-pine bed" has, in the meantime, significantly spread on a growing market for exclusive, ecological and healthy furniture in Austria. The analysis of a product which is so closely related to current cultural discourses around health, nature and tradition promises to unfold the subtle relationships between these discourses and to understand how these are, on an everyday level, mediated through objects. Methodologically I therefore investigated into the production, the popularisation and the consumption of the stone-pine bed in the specific cultural context of Austria by exploring media discourses as well as conducting in-depth interviews with producers and consumers. My master thesis illustrates that the design of the stone-pine bed as well as the discourses around this piece of furniture show complex and often contradictory links between ideas of health, nature and tradition. The consumers of stone-pine beds take up very different aspects of its potential meanings. While for some its scientifically proven "healthy" effects on the human body are the main motif for purchasing this bed, for others it is the fact that the "natural" material and design of the bed fits their style of arranging their homes.

panel P118
Objects, domestic routines and the making of everyday life