Accepted paper:

Skills and sorrows: little narratives triggered by material artefacts


Åsa Ljungström (Mid Sweden University)

Paper short abstract:

To reach beyond the script of life history little narratives (petits récits) triggered by artefacts are analysed. Once the frame of materiality was set by the inventory of crafted artefacts, their mind was open to the scope of family stories of cultural heritage, gender, values of life.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution lies in the crossroads between the study of artefacts and of verbalizations, materiality and narrativity. Its purpose is to investigate how objects of the house inspired their owners to narrate and interpret values, life contexts and moral problems connected with the transformation of the twentieth century society. The informants related incidents from their lives, illuminating questions of identity, views of morality, gender roles, class relations, sense of place, and historical preservation. They answered questions around artefacts with little narratives about life. Their memories spanned the period of a century: from the visible divisions of the old class based society to the hidden differences of a welfare state. The links between artefacts, the art of verbal presentation and personal experience narratives, established by North American folklorists, gave impetus to this study. Paul Ricoeur shows how narration establishes connections between time, objects and values. Objects can give rise to narratives about significant experiences. Ricoeur's perspective is used to reconstruct phases in the historical constructs of the informants. Narratives about food proved to be about class diversities. Textiles in the linen cupboards triggered narratives about death, marriage, childbirths, the upbringing of girls in the art of weaving and of work ethics. Dependence and subjugation as a result of gender, age and family also surfaced in front of the linen cupboard. Women openly revealed their powerlessness.

panel Body006
Body, emotion, gender