SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011
Objects, domestic routines and the making of everyday life
Location Block 1, Piso 1, Room 44
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30
The panel aims to discuss contemporary material culture in everyday 'naturalized' routines. Beyond production and consumption, it will focus on the objects' materiality and its impacts on the relations with subjects and other objects as a means of acknowledging their constitutive potentialities.
The impact of ordinary, often 'invisible', objects in peoples' lives has been acknowledged by contemporary theory as one of the most significant consequences of contemporary material culture. Grounded in a considerable body of ethnographic work that highlights its expressive potential to depict and discuss identity issues and belonging strategies, its relational modalities both with subjects and other objects needs, however, to be further explored. This panel welcomes theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions to the discussion of the roles played by contemporary mass-produced materiality in the making of everyday life, as well as in perceiving and shaping the world. Specifically, we aim to go beyond objects' expressive dimensions and a) focus on objects' physicality, functions and performances in specific cultural contexts; b) make room for the discussion of their potentialities, as well as of their limits and resistance to appropriation; c) observe their relations in broader constellations of objects; and d) characterize contemporary systems of categorization and evaluation of contemporary material culture.
Discussant: Prof. Livia Barbosa
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
The materiality of life crises: of people, things and extreme situations
The aim of this paper is to discuss the importance of objects in the life of people who endured extreme life situations like surviving the Holocaust or lost loved ones in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York 2001.
Material culture has several meanings and has played a significant role in ethnological research. Humans are surrounded by objects and many of these are so commonplace that they are barely noticeable but nevertheless are charged with emotions and stories that account for something important. In this paper the focus is on the relation between humans and objects. It is an examination of objects that help people to adjust to life again after flight and survival. With inspiration from the classical theory of rites of passage, the perspective is expanded to include positional changes and movements in a more general sense. In a catastrophe people are wrenched from life as they know it and in the next phase find themselves on a journey, in transit or in transition between what they have left behind and a security as yet to be created. It is in this in-between or liminal phase that the individual is most vulnerable - nothing is as it was and what is to come is shrouded in mystery. The latter phase, integration, means that the search or journey is complete and that the individual has found balance in life and, with that, their place in the world. The aim is to show how simple things can be vital for people trying to find coherence and meaning in life. The focus is on what objects meant for those forced to flee from Nazism and for those who lost relatives in the attack on the World Trade Center September 2001.
Old age and the making of everyday life
This paper will focus on the relationship between old age, objects and domestic routines. Domestic routines are transformed as certain objects lose their importance and fall out of use, while others appear - for example a walking aid or a blood glucose meter - and become integrated in everyday life.
The surrounding world, filled with objects, is the foundation of our actions, thoughts and emotions. Equally, we affect things and objects in our turn, through the interpretation and the significance we give them. In regard to old age, certain objects, as well as places, may become problematic. Some things lose their importance and fall out of use while others appear and become integrated in everyday life, thereby transforming domestic routines.
This paper will focus on the relationship between old age, objects and domestic routines. Ageing changes the making of everyday life in different ways, and consequently transforms the experience of things, world and self. If "things are not consumed for their own sake but for what they make possible" (Shove et al 2007:22), which worlds are opened through the walking aid or the blood glucose meter? How do new objects find their place in everyday life? And the opposite; how do well-known things phase out of everyday activities?
Empirical examples will be used, deriving from interviews and participant observations with men and women, eighty years and older.
Island memories: souvenirs and everyday life
This paper explores the relationship between souvenirs, place and everyday life. With Gotland in the Baltic sea as example, I examine the production of souvenirs and what is happening when the tourist are at home again and the chosen objects are a part of daily life.
This paper explores the relationship between souvenirs, place and everyday life. With a small island, Gotland, in the Baltic sea as example, a tourist site since the 19th century, I examine bouth the production of souvenirs for sale to tourists and what is happening when the traveller are at home again and the objects are a part of daily life. Which functions do souvenirs have as commodities and as a chosen object in a home? Aspects as aesthetic, gifts, memory, identity, nostalgia and collections are discussed.
Being Moroccan abroad: objects and everyday practices in women's subjectification
Starting from De Certeau's analysis of everyday life , my paper aims at studying how subjectification processes carry out through objects and practices in migration contexts. I'll focus on Moroccan women living in Milan's suburbs and on the ways they shape themselves through materiality.
Objects and practices used and performed daily, play a central role in the definition of the self, and migration paths, meant both in a personal and in a collective sense, determine complex dynamics which involve them directly.
Starting from De Certeau's analysis of everyday life , my research focuses on Moroccan women living in Milan's suburbs, and it aims at studying how they make themselves and the place where they live, after migration, through materiality, moving in peculiar ways among what new local context (with its mass production and wished standardization of habits) and origin country (where what is perceived as "traditional" constantly meets the global dimension of goods and practices) impose.
The murmuring of everyday practices and the words of the objects involved talk about women who perform and use them in ways that lead a complex reflection on the definition of a proper Moroccan "style" [Gell, 1998]: if we can say that a person is made of material objects which determine an induction of its own agency, of biographical history and of collective memory, equally we might state that these objects interlace among each other and define different manners of being Moroccan, and of being it abroad.
Historic mass-produced housing and the contemporary consumer: Bata's blue-collar houses in Zlín
The paper is based on a qualitative research on standardized blue-collar dwellings (realized in Zlín, Czech Republic during years 2007-2009). Our aim is to discuss the role which plays the specific materiality of mass-produced housing in the effort of contemporary dwellers to "build their home".
The research took place in the standardized mass-produced houses built during years 1924-1939 in the functionalist city of Zlín by the Bata's shoemaking concern. The presupposed lifetime of houses was thirty years thus the houses were designed as a temporary minimum dwelling. But due to the historical circumstances these houses are still used and their contemporary dwellers are obliged to negotiate the using and the renewal of the houses not only with their housemates but also with materiality of the house itself. The paper discusses the ways in which this seventy years old mass-produced materiality - standardized minimum houses - affects the needs and lifestyles of contemporary occupants. The paper will present the quarter-houses and semidetached houses on three levels. (1) As a part of broader urban and social project of industrial city: In the materiality of the houses the image and structure of bourgeois ideal of nuclear family was embedded so it was used as a disciplining model for workers from countryside to be "civilized" and trained in specific housekeeping practices. (2) The houses might be seen as the witnesses of the social change that our society went through during 20th century and thus they enable us to describe and understand these changes. (3) However, the main focus of our research was to understand how the specific technology and construction materials of the houses affect the everyday practises of their contemporary inhabitants and how are these relations interpreted and reflected in the narratives.
This is not only an old pipe, or notes for an epistemological acceptance of remnant objects
In worlds already packed with views on daily material cultures, there are still resistances to an epistemological recognition of residual obsolete objects. This presentation follows an alternative phenomenological trail to such resistances, from a critique of their grounds, to renewed proposals.
Within worlds already filled with multiple views on material items as being legitimate bricks to build social knowledge, there are still multiple oppositions to the epistemological acceptance of an extended class of objects, typically deemed as merely residual. Shabby clothes, outdated appliances, bitten lighters, broken toys and analogous, are often minimized or put aside through this reasoning inside the analytical platforms of our modern material studies. Most likely considered as obsolete evidences in some kind of evolutionary constructivist schemes, or judged as past quotidian tokens better fitted within museological or archaeological disciplines, they are overlooked in our debates on present times. However, just because these objects were probably discarded at the end of operational life cycles, or after biographical rites of passage, aesthetic structural changes, etc, we should never judge them as nullified things. Some still exist or resist through the circulation or accumulation processes that nourish places like thrift stores, junkyards, attics, flea markets, etc, and need to be acknowledged as such, like any other daily object within our material social studies. For example, a lack of continuous human interactions or the unavailability of functioning modes should never stop our efforts in this sense. In their physical matters we may always find values or politics, and even a few paths for technical reappropriations and their consequences. This presentation will follow such trail through ethnographic phenomenologies supported by the conceptual references of authors like Arendt, Lefebvre, Certeau, Winner, Beaune, Dagognet, Strasser, Scanlan and others.
An archaeology of the archaeological object(s)
This paper intends to examine the conditions that made possible the transformation of the world into an object of observation, including the creation of the discipline of archaeology in westerm world's modernity. In this context, the object(s) of archaeology appear as a particularly meaningful symptom of our society.
This paper intends to examine the conditions that made possible the transformation of the world into an object of observation, including the creation of the discipline of archaeology in westerm world's modernity.
Concerned with the deep and the occult, the material versus the immaterial, the presence versus the absence, the present versus the past, the object(s) of archaeology appear as (a) particularly meaningful symptom(s) of our society.
More precisely, the intention is to focus on some case studies to exemplify how archaeology is connected to an overwhelming ideology of management, in order to fill the gaps of traditional history, to integrate the territory into a rational order of meaning, transparency and planning, and to unearth and expose the "past" to people in order to improve the heritage/touristic industry.
It is important to discuss critically the "philosophy" and of course the political economy that underpins all this activity in order to understand he reasons for a growing movement towards the "past" in our everyday life - the transformation of the world into a museum and a commodity. Archaeology and its increased attraction to people is, paradoxically, an appeal for a timeless history.
Constructing and appropriating the "healthy stone-pine bed": home furnishing within discourses of health, nature and tradition
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.
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.
Handcrafting: compensating the "invasion de prose" in everyday life
Based on fieldwork conducted in Austria this paper aims to give reasons for the increasing significance of making things yourself. Details are given on the following aspects: alienation due to division-of-labour, the creative process and object appropriation, gendered identities.
The invasion of prose, once addressed similarly by the French philosopher Edgar Morin, in forms of increased and increasing acceleration, mechanization, automation, etc. is calling for counter strategies. This paper, therefore, aims to elaborate on reactive strategies people reach out to in order to bring poésie back into their daily lives, by means of handcrafting, practising DIY (do-it-yourself), needleworking, etc.
Especially after the two world wars making things oneself was one possibility to save money and hence was a practice out of economic necessity. Several studies have shown, however, that handcrafting etc. serves purposes which go far beyond economizing; e.g.: Working processes are becoming more and more 'limited', mostly requiring solely very specific knowledge due to division-of-labour-policies on various levels. This eventually leads to detachment and alienation. In contrast, the process of creating material culture manu propria - from the beginning (the surfacing of an idea) to the end (materializing and finally accomplishing the idea) - implies an extraordinary intimacy between the creator and the object in the making.
Fieldwork in Austria has shown that handcrafting furthermore offers the possibility to escape acceleration and to focus on slowing down. In addition handcrafting is starting to dissolve gendered identities and is also advancing to being a lifestyle-activity.
The presentation of intermediate research results acquired by a method-triangulation - mainly problem-centred narrative interviews and participant observation - will illustrate some reasons for the increasing significance of the facere manu at the beginning of the 21st century.
Food heritage making processes: production and appropriations of artisanal pork in northeast Portugal
This paper explores the role of heritage narratives and politics in the contemporary configurations of production and consumption of artisanal food in Europe through the analysis of the materiality and social circulation of a set of pork products.
Comprehending heritage discourses, logics and productions is becoming, more than ever, essential to observe and understand practices of food production and consumption in the contemporary world. In this article, a specific set of artisanal pork products are analyzed, revealing how food and food practices are represented and shaped by food producers and promoters, in a language strongly influenced by ideas linked with heritage, such as 'tradition', 'roots' or 'preservation'. We try to offer some preliminary thoughts on what is at stake in the efforts to conserve specific food, framing the heritage discourses within their critical contribution to shape the relations between local and the globalized world, through their role in areas as tourism, rural development, or regional politics.
We also argue that this heritage processes and their 'naturalization' have strong effects on consumption and the way people deal and appropriate the material dimensions of food in their everyday life. This paper deals with the impact of food heritage making in the circulation and the social paths of products and practices, such as the role of the protection and control of origin denominations (DOP, DOC) in defining new social spaces and consumptions; the proliferation of food related festivals and events; or the uses of food for identitary, political and economic construction of European regions in the frame of the EU.
Freedom of movement through carefully planned guidance: the delicate choreography of the supermarket
One crucial part of everyday life routines is shopping for groceries. In our presentation we will focus on the vast variety of materialized micro processes that takes place in shopping for daily commodities. Using our empirical findings we will describe how the supermarket is a highly choreographed space.
One crucial part of everyday life routines is shopping for groceries. In a Danish context the shopping primarily takes place in a supermarket close to the home or the working place. Our presentation takes its point of departure in a joint project on 'The Interactive Grocery Shopping of the Future', where our ethnological contribution was an extensive ethnographic fieldwork on the present practices of grocery shopping in Denmark. In our presentation we will focus on the vast variety of materialized micro processes that takes place in shopping for the daily commodities. Using our empirical findings we will describe how the supermarket as a choreographed space and a spatio-temporal space (Massey 2005) through the routes and the movements of the customer becomes an individual path. This path transforms the supermarket from being a space into being an individually performed place (De Certeau 1984). Additionally, we will focus on the situations of choice in the supermarkets as processes of distributed agency and as co-constituted (Shove et al. 2007) by the performed space, material objects and multiple uses of the senses as well as absent and present family members. These hybrid agencies configure the micro processes performed in making the supermarket into an everyday practice of shopping.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.