Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects, P Laviolette

Tags: material culture, Patrick Laviolette, objects, material culture studies, serendipity, Estonia, Yale University Press, cultural objects, anthropology, Horace Walpole, Roland Barthes, Cambridge University Press, case studies, ed, John Hutton, object world, Horace Mann, References Appadurai, Social Trust, Walter Benjamin, grand narratives, Korthals Altes, everyday items, visual culture studies, Ithaca Press, Stephen H. Riggins, subaltern studies, Arjun Appadurai, Charles Seligman, Daryll Forde, cultural anthropology, Journal of Material Culture, James George Frazer, Western research, University College London, Mouton de Gruyter, social networks, European Imperialism, French sociology, exchange theory, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University Press
Content: Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects Patrick Laviolette [...] you will understand it better by the derivation than by the deinition. I once read a silly fairy tale called the three Princes of Serendip: as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the let side, where it was worse than on the right ­ now do you understand Serendipity? [...] this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description) [...] Horace Walpole to Horace Mann, 28 January 1754 (Walpole 1960, 407-411; emphasis in original) Objects, artefacts and matter, even sometimes the immaterial, have been comprehensively theorised and contextualised through a number of intriguing volumes. Since the ground-breaking publication of he Social Life of hings in 1986 to the launch of the Journal of Material Culture ten years later, the material world in its cross-cultural, multi-temporal and interdisciplinary study could never quite be the same again. Indeed, the very concern for the efects and afects of how materiality evolves over time is what this volume seeks to address. A well-known adage in this ield of enquiry is that things make people as much as people make things. Serendipitously, things oten tell more about people than people themselves can actually tell us about those things.1 he relationships we develop and share with a tangible arena of artworks, buildings, infrastructures, monuments, relics and everyday trinkets varies from the remote to the intimate, from the leeting to the durable, from immediate to mediated, from the passive to the passionate, from the philosophised to the commonsensical. Such objects gain meaning and status within an array of creative processes. Whether it is through the usage or non-usage of the physical world, things nonetheless harbour a potentiality for becoming endowed with auras, symbolism and power. Hence our journeys through the material world generate a multitude of emotions Kannike, A. & Laviolette, P. (eds) (2013) Things in Culture, Culture in Things. Approaches to Culture Theory 3, 13­33. University of Tartu Press, Tartu. 13
Patrick Laviolette and sensations: pleasure, attachment, belonging, angst, envy, exclusion, loathing and fear are amongst some. hey also feed into the propagation of on-going discourses, myths, narrations and stories which oscillate between the robust or durable and the ever shiting. A certain Socratic (or perhaps `Serendip') maxim applies here: that the better one understands things or knows material culture, the more diiculty there oten seems to be in deining and delimiting what this thing ­ this ield of research ­ is all about. So you might ask, what does the area of material culture studies actually consist of? Well, where in Hades do we start. As acknowledged by the many scholars who have contributed in recent decades, material culture studies has a multi-faceted history with diferent regional/national perspectives. Now the more a nascent ield develops, the more all-encompassing it can oten become. And so what might be interesting about the future of material culture studies is the recent fascination with the importance of the immaterial and the virtual as well as the abandoned, the decommissioned or the no longer inhabited. For example, the study of stars and luminous auras, or the invisible and the otherworldly. Even the scientiic and pseudo-scientiic processes of interpreting simulacrum data call for attention. here is indeed a lot of research currently done under the rubric of material culture studies which focuses on the not so obviously tangible things in existence (e.g. colour and darkness, memory and the senses for instance). Or on phenomena of the world which do not immediately appeal to our classiication categories as cultural objects since they are either too big, too small, too mundane or too natural ­ animals, food, landscapes, painkillers, zebra crossings and so forth. Moreover, by bringing the signiicance of the mnemonic aspects of story telling to the table, material culture theorists, amongst others, have helped indicate that one place where we can start is at the beginning. Not, of course, at the beginning of all things (i.e. physics) or with the source of human evolution (i.e. physiology). Nor even at the beginning of society or culture (although archaeology, history, philosophy and so on obviously feature prominently). Certainly though, at the beginning of our individual and collective human lives, as well as our irst socialised or collective memories of encounters with people, environments and all that stuf in between. It then seems interesting to ask whether the material culture project becomes one that is highly focused on the narrativised memories that objects carry. Stories and how they are stored in things is an angle which the chapters herein pivot around. Inquiring into mnemonic experiences with things might be especially pertinent for opening up a new ethnographic moment of irst contact ­ not with `Others' but with objects. Such a signiicant inertia for the material 14
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects (re)turn, as we are witnessing it, can therefore allow us to infer that what we are hearing from such stories (reminiscent to some of `origins' and irst contact theories), is the implication that maybe it is objects themselves which are (again) becoming the `new Other'. his might help explain why the new brand of contemporary material culture studies has become so popular and inluential in such a relatively short period of time, especially in the subsequent stages to that historical instant when post-colonialism and post-socialism, as well as the relexive deconstruction of the `Other', had become so paramount. During these zigzag moments of the material roundabout then, now over a quarter of a century ago, material culture studies has increasingly turned to the visual, the digital and other forms of information and communication technologies. And at the risk of repetition, to pretty much everything else. Indeed, material culture can be about a lot of things and non-things, particularly within the framework of the global economic system of high, late or post-modern capitalism. But from the inluence of Marxist scholars, we have learnt that the objects of most value or relevance are not always those that are most obviously life-shiting. Service purchases, ritual, kinship, exchange as well as the mundane experiences of everyday life, once the bread and butter of anthropologists, are still pivotal categories for any diligent material culture enthusiast. From certain Marxist axioms about making history or the repetition of time, we have also learnt that in addition to mattering signiicantly, the past is somehow inescapable. Hence, before presenting the diverse contributions in this volume, this introduction briely surveys the contemporary ield of material culture studies. It does so by paying homage to a particularly narrow legacy of `ancestral' things ­ the endeavours of a selective cohort of academics who paved the way for the current generation's research on human-object relationships. Material sagacity he epistemological roots for addressing the comprehensive study of human artefacts are muddled. Many archaeologists are adamant that this is predominantly the realm of their discipline. hey are correct in some ways. Nevertheless, the study of material culture has continuously existed across a range of other disciplines, art and design history for instance. he inaugural editorial of the Journal of Material Culture put forward the undisciplined, politically proactive and creative possibilities as deining features of the ield, advancing many perks and advantageous features of not being subject to particular academic dogma (Miller & Tilley 1996). 15
Patrick Laviolette Despite this, anthropology is on pretty irm ground when laying a certain claim to the intellectual development of this ield. From the ofset, the early theories of Edward B. Tylor (1832-1917) and James George Frazer (1854-1941), compiled from `missionary' data, allowed British anthropology to begin establishing itself as a collections discipline in terms of gathering cultural objects, linguistic data and life-history information. Dependant upon second-hand colonial narratives and other travel writing accounts, Frazer's armchair theorising dealt less with artefacts than that of his teacher E. B. Tylor. So, to an extent, one could argue that his was an anthropological vision for collecting stories, not things. One of the irst overtly notable ancestors in allowing the study of material culture to become clearly identiiable was Alfred Cort Haddon (1855-1940). With eclectic interests and a background in the natural sciences, he efectively masterminded the most comprehensive ethnological team research in the Englishspeaking world. he famous Cambridge expedition to Torres Straits and New Guinea at the turn of the 20th century established the textbook model for `rescue anthropology'. It would professionalise the discipline by setting as precedence the global export of ethnological ield researchers. he objective was one of the orders of the day: to salvage cultural information that was changing (disappearing) due to the increasing pace and scale of global cultural contact; amongst other factors, the result of colonialism and imperialism. Given the disciplinary signatures of the era, the tyranny of distance as well as the theoretical pedigree of the armchair theorising necessary for making crosscultural comparison, these ield expeditions were undoubtedly questionable as proper ethnography. Such initiating phases of rapid-ire ieldwork techniques, developing towards longer term and repeated ield visits, did indeed verge on `collection binges'. In his many treatises on art, Haddon brought to the table the evolutionary importance of creative adaptability in many capacities (Haddon 1895).2 It is worth mentioning a few later anthropologists whose global popularity, backgrounds and novel approaches made them unwitting accomplices in creating the intellectual space from which material culture studies could develop. Notably: Ruth Benedict, Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, Mary Douglas and Colin Turnbull. All became internationally recognised. In most of their cases, connections with the vibrant art and culture milieu of New York City allowed them to have signiicant involvements with diverse forms of public outreach. his permitted experimentations with ilm and photography as well as museum curation projects and research collaborations. In terms of the signiicant impact on the development of material culture studies as we know it today, the distinct European versus New World trajectories 16
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects for academic anthropology did ind its initial institutional synthesis in the UK through the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI). Certainly one of the oldest independent anthropological institutions in the world, the RAI has had a long history of gathering, collating and storing ield material, as well as providing researchers with access to collections and archives. Two noteworthy individuals to have signiicant inluence within the RAI particularly stand out: John Henry Hutton and Cyril Daryll Forde. Hutton argued vehemently for more interest in examining material culture as a means of conceptually rallying against many things such as extreme functionalism, linguistic determinism, difusionism, and (more `controversially') applied anthropology. He concluded by nearly opposing the utilitarian value of applied anthropology as against the knowledge value for knowledge's own sake ethos, which for him the study of material culture encapsulated. In the context of British anthropology, the impacts were signiicant in the future obfuscation of where the material culture ield would most naturally belong. Contemporary material culture studies, through the inluence of Marxist archaeology and Daryll Forde's desires to open up anthropology even further, could seem to come as a reaction against Hutton's position. Unsurprisingly then, if this was seen as the established anthropological position since the 1940s, that in the 1990s the on-going debate about where material culture studies it epistemologically would still be fraught with ambiguity and disputed principles. But let us not obliterate the obvious with such a premature conclusion since Hutton was a key proponent for the inherent signiicance of the past, particularly as expressed through archaeology, museum collections and the anthropology of art. As stated in his RAI address: [...] thinkers whose primary interest lay in the forms and functions of society, tended perhaps to minimize the amount of attention given to arts, crats and the material environment of the society studied [...] (Hutton 1944, 1). What are also crucial are the absences and subtexts in this address. He referenced the German inluence but not the French. And in so doing, used Radclif-Brown as a straw man to remind the audience of the day when in certain camps of anthropology, some people still saw the functionalist school as a disputable myth. In dispelling Radclif-Brown, one could bypass the developments in ethnology of a post-Durkheimian school of structural-functionalism. Yet ironically, through his attention to the impacts of French social theory, Radclif-Brown was a signiicant facilitator in introducing some of the long-term intellectual building blocks for a British social anthropology that could easily house comprehensive 17
Patrick Laviolette studies of material culture. Instead though, Hutton was drawn back to the British past of anthropology, insinuating through citation to Charles Seligman's work, that psychology was the bridge between a dualistic anthropology with Cultural Anthropology (including material culture) on one side and human biology/physiology on the other. he second individual in question, Daryll Forde, was the founder of the Department of Anthropology at University College London. For obvious institutional reasons, given this university's founding role in the history of material culture studies, Forde has received considerable attention already (Buchli 2002; 2004). As such, we can move on to consider a few international facets to this ield of scholarship. In terms of emphasising the diferent impacts of colonial ethno-history, we should perhaps remind ourselves that Hutton's dismissal of French theory has long since been redressed. In response to relexive interpretations of the global repercussions of early European Imperialism, many writers have chronicled how the triad of Britain-Germany-France has signiicantly shaped the ield under investigation. For its part, early French sociology developed in accordance with the close inluence of `revolutionary' thinking. hat is, those intellectual ideas formative of an ideology which has been more intransigently iconoclastic. In helping to lay some of the reactionary and irreverent groundwork necessary for the fundamental shaking-up of Western paradigms (through such conceptual movements as subaltern studies or Orientalism for instance) certain early French sociologists interested in contemporary objects, as well as the technologies of past human civilisations, would go on to form several inluential laboratoire centres with a key interest in material culture.3 he ethnologie of Durkheim, Mauss and eventually a slurry of other continental anthropologists has been powerful in its self-criticisms of Western research practices and epistemologies. Many of the major material culture debates of the early days arise from (and indeed return to) the pioneering perspectives of French sociology from the 1920s onwards. One of prominence is the East-West tension as it relates to git exchange societies versus capitalistic ones. Such initial divisions have been identiied as structurally deterministic and much on-going research has geared itself towards reining or decoding the ancestral binary git-logic. he foundational collection of essays to lag the onset of contemporary material culture studies is presumably he Social Life of hings (Appadurai 1986). It is paramount in terms of exchange theory because it does not shy away from the symbolic. Indeed, many of the contributors relect upon the practicalities by which the notion of sacriice and ritual become embedded into reciprocal action, so that exchange can both transform and continue with vigour; maintaining, 18
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects reinforcing and forming the possibilities for new social relations along the way. With this we get a signiicant historical unpacking of the German/British ideological liaisons over Marxist theorising, which had historically advocated more evolutionary and materialist views than the revolutionary French one. he result has been the creation of a powerful intellectual space within which the discussion about the alienability and inalienability of objects has become a vital conceptual pillar for the ield of material culture studies. Dozens of issues can be subsumed within this frame, encompassing such areas as bride-wealth, contestable land and resource claims, cultural copyright, heritage and human remains repatriation, slavery and so forth. A inal point to bring out here is the global inluence of ethnographic relexivity in social theory (Fabian 1983). In terms of the period for the ield under investigation, the questions of territoriality and the academic politics of authenticity are open game. In the early 1980s, in America, especially through some signiicant cultural-theorists and social historians in Pennsylvania, there began a process of embracing and engaging with anthropology. Arjun Appadurai and his colleagues were at the forefront of this. Certain British scholars were involved (Renfrew, Gell, Bayly) but not in terms of representing any particular school of thought. Moreover, probably inadvertently, a series of academic presuppositions remained largely unchallenged at the time (the all-male gender selection of the contributors for example). Some institutional consequences from this pivotal publication seem to have themselves been materialised in the form of a self-perpetuating intellectual distinction/divide for the ield.4 To an extent then, an internal structural schemata has been recreated whereby, since anthropology in the USA has largely maintained the four ield approach, many American material culture anthropologists have stood together with social historians. In the UK, the pairing has been between anthropology and archaeology/museology. And as we have seen, the historical side of things has usually been subsumed by a range of other disciplines. Strictly speaking though, historians and art historians of material culture studies in Britain have only been marginally accepted into the inner circle. he exceptions were themselves initially at the margins of UK anthropology since they were efectively historians of the discipline itself. he landscape of material culture studies in Estonia (where the present volume was put together) as well as in much of Eastern Europe (Korkiakangas et al 2008), has followed an altogether diferent pattern. he priority of early archaeology, ethnology and folkloristics was to collect and preserve the objects that were seen to constitute national heritage in museums and archives. In the pre-World War II period, developments in Germany and Scandinavia were followed here, 19
Patrick Laviolette resulting in the interdisciplinary historical-geographical method that continued to dominate in the study of material culture until the 1990s. However, due to the administrative separation of research institutions in the Soviet period (for example, the Estonian National Museum was divided into the Ethnography Museum and the Literary Museum) artefacts were oten collected and studied separately from the stories stored in them. From the early 1990s onwards, the humanities in Estonia have opened up to new theoretical and methodological inspirations from the Western world and new multidisciplinary approaches. he material world thus began to be interpreted in the contexts of cultural communication, consumption, memory and life-stories, home, heritage production and so on (e.g. Kхresaar 1998; 2002; Jaago 2011; Jхesalu 2009; Jхesalu & Kхresaar 2011; Ruusmann 2007; Keller 2004; Vхsu & Kannike 2011; Vхsu & Soovдli-Sepping 2012). At present the collaboration of Estonian archaeology, ethnology/anthropology, semiotics, folkloristics, communication studies, religious studies, landscape studies and contemporary cultural studies is carried out under the auspices of the Centre of Excellence in Cultural heory (CECT) established in 2008. his pan-institutional research hub has enabled, among other things, a closer interdisciplinary approach to material culture studies within Estonia and across the Baltic states.5 Simplifying things Contrary to Appadurai's hallmark text from the mid-1980s, the selection of research in this volume represents the work of scholars based in eight countries which encompass ten diferent academic institutions. Historically, the topics of the essays range from the Late Bronze Age to topical contemporary debates. Geographically, the scope is quite international since the case studies included herein cover Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the far eastern edges of Canada and India as well as West Africa. Despite some overlap, the sections represent the categories for four major areas of interest within the study of material culture: everyday domesticity and vernacular settings; projects dealing with archaeological records and/or deep historical issues; approaches inluenced by theories of consumption and museum collection ethnology; and inally, socio-textual analyses considering cultures of waste and new technologies. By no means do these provide an exhaustive compilation. hey do, however, cover a wide gamut of current research and interest on the cultural histories of the material world. 20
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects he collection begins with Sot objects ­ a section whose chapters advocate a lexible, non-dogmatic approach, at least in Hal Foster's (2002) sense of the beneits inherent in sot theory.6 We are thus confronted with ambiguous objects. Or put diferently, we revel in the stuf of reverie. We also face projects concerned with the tangibility of an ethnographic present, the placed matter of a contemporary moment drawn towards methodological experimentation (Labrum & Laviolette 2009). Prominent themes include domesticity, entropy and subversion (Riggins), the sensuous chronicling of mobile objects (Cubero), fantasy, political ideology and reality (Mackay). hese are poetic and personal stories, in which the senses are important conceptually and an anti-establishment attitude towards accepting conventions at face value is signiicant epistemologically. We start with a chapter by someone who has an exceptionally well established track-record when it comes to writing about things. Earlier in his career, Stephen H. Riggins edited the compilation he Socialness of hings (1994) when he published "Fieldwork in the living room: an auto-ethnographic essay". his visionary exercise in the thick-description of vernacular possessions, provided a systematic methodology for gathering information about the relationship between the self and objects displayed in homes. His chapter here is a condensed methodological efort to update his exemplary, socio-semiotic approach. Informed by recent advances in material culture studies, Riggins complements his earlier contribution with a sociologically reinvigorated perspective. He peppers his revised methodology with a detailed domestic ethnography of a young artist and writer inluenced by the punk scene. It is wide reaching in its collaborative and visually informed style (cf Drazin & Frohlich 2007). Further, it is not only timely in dealing with the entropic dimensions of `homework' and the longevity of materiality but also because of its subversive play (Crang 2012). It is equally signiicant in that it discusses an array of material culture scholarship, providing extensive terminological deinitions and an engaging overview on the history of material culture ieldwork. Next follows another ethnographic piece, this time one that traces the material meanderings of diasporic sounds. Carlo A. Cubero addresses the diferent meanings and uses the kora (an African harp) assumes when it goes through transnational networks. Since 2009 he has been carrying out sporadic periods of participant observation research in Western Europe amongst West African musicians. Cubero's chapter considers the complex identities of this community, arguing for a perspective where the multivalency of objects mirrors the subjective multivalency of transnational migrants. Methodologically, he contextualises the piece within ethnographic cinema and presents the diferent ways in which documentary ilm-making informs his research project. Enticing to a synaesthetic 21
Patrick Laviolette range of our senses, this narrative layering brings out the `glocal' life history of the kora. Moreover, the chapter emphasises the instrument's qualities as an adaptive, creative, mobile and socialising fabrication. Also sensitive to the materiality of soundscapes, Rowan Mackay's essay discusses the relationship between tangible and intangible things within culture. By focussing on a particularly impalpable thing, `the American Dream', she produces some interesting relections on the value of the intangible. Her indings resonate with those of Eugene Halton some 20 years previously when he commented cynically on how mega-technical media representations of democracy "transformed the American vision of autonomy into the dream of automatic culture and kitsch" (Halton 1994, 309). In its consumerist dimension, the myth that is the American Dream itself critically involves the acquisition and procurement of things. Mackay relies on heo Van Leeuwen's ideas on the socio-semiotics of contemporary visual communication. Especially pertinent are his thoughts on integrating together the study of semiotic modes and normative discourses as well as moving from uni-modal accounts towards multi-modal approaches which blend language, image and music. Mackay thus heeds that we seek to comprehend such modes in more sensual veins, celebrating ­ instead of fearing ­ the diiculties of translation. he three chapters in the section Stoic stories share a concern for a narrative subject matter which is arduous and touchy. Tough to take in, they border on the stoical, even though this is for quite diferent reasons. In the irst two pieces we have a stoicism of the everyday. Whether through the encapsulated trauma in the memories of migration for Nylund Skog, or the heritage value of stones in an age of droll tales in Muhonen, these essays weigh heavily on our understanding of mnemonic things with an aptitude for transgressing the past. he implications behind Salo-Mattila's grand history of a partitioning screen are similar, even if this object's prestigiousness conceals some of the attributes and properties of its vernacular signiicance. When doing research on experiences of living as a Jew in Sweden, Susanne Nylund Skog found that diasporic belonging is oten mirrored in the artefacts that are regarded as meaningful and worthy of memorialising by the narrators. Her chapter explores this topic by investigating how a female migrant, in her narrative and use of things (material and imaginative), positions herself in a Jewish Diaspora while simultaneously creating and maintaining her own identity. Overall, Nylund Skog's essay uncovers how memories of migration and experiences of living in diaspora materialise into vernacular epics, revealing some of the ways in which identities and relocated communities are maintained 22
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects as well as reproduced in the dialectical process of narrating the materialisation of migration. One of the intriguingly serendipitous sides to folk belief is how it oten renders mundane things into objects with remarkably surprising qualities and viceversa (Orange & Laviolette 2010). Objects or matter of the most commonplace sort become intertwined into ritual praxis as well as incorporated into narrativised mythologies. Timo Muhonen's chapter addresses one of the simplest objects within the sphere of Finnish-Karelian folk belief ­ an unworked stone. Even this, when viewed in its own cultural context, transpires to be laden with both intrinsic and transposed power. his power was harnessed to serve objectives related to such diverse walks of life as, for example, cattle herding, love afairs and healing. His examples attest to an anachronistic and oversimplifying way in which archaeology oten perceives many stone remains. Frequently viewed in their totality, as unchanging cairn structures with a single function, Muhonen follows a diferent line in suggesting how it might be more accurate to acknowledge a more complex interpretation based on the biographical meaning of the units which make up these types of larger structures. Flipping the convention, he implies that the signiicance of a single stone in a cairn might have been equal to, or even exceeded, the signiicance assigned to the aggregate. Sticking with the Finnish-Nordic theme but returning to a more contemporary style of historical analysis, we conclude this section with a chapter by Kirsti Salo-Mattila who traces the biography of the Empress Screen (1885). She starts by outlining the screen's origins and symbolic roles through its process of design and embroidery. he screen is shown to breathe European culture. It pictures the history and vitality of a nation loyal to the Emperor. Set in contrast with other gits given to the Emperor and Empress during their visit to Helsinki, which overtly relected Finnish nationalism, Salo-Mattila demonstrates that the circles behind the screen were more closely aligned with politically liberal European ideologies. She concludes by discussing the division of labour in the realisation of the screen. he ideal of William Morris to combine design and implementation in one creative person was in conlict with reality even in the Arts and Crats movement. In the late 19th century, crats did not try to approach art as much in the person of the maker as within the traditional division of labour. Especially in embroidery, the diference between a male `head' and female `hands' was clear, and it was generally understood that the creativity of handicrat was in the implementation of the artist's intention. Via the Empress Screen's life-history, SaloMattila thus reveals it as an embodiment of such thinking, ofering a compelling account of how changing ideologies were being objectiied and gited to the elite. 23
Patrick Laviolette Consuming and the collectable is a second-hand knowledge section. In the sense that it examines such issues as when amateur bricoleurs become connoisseurs, or when consuming and collecting are inverted, it presents work that is both archetypal to material culture studies yet peripheral enough to stretch some boundaries. Featuring four essays, it is the longest section in the book. With the irst (Cristache), buying and vending are conlated in an East European context where capitalism sits uncomfortably. he subsequent chapter (Kurvits) equally places consumption (this time of knowledge) outside its zone of familiarity. here is also an intended symmetry here in that ater these two chapters dealing with post-Soviet states, the next two are similar in confronting hot-capitalism rather than cold-war issues, even though they raise very diferent tensions ­ psychology and design (Immonen) and post-colonial appropriation (Ngully). Engaging with the growing literature on the consumption of worn clothing worldwide, Maria Cristache's contribution is especially pertinent in that it has taken place within a neglected area (i.e. Eastern Europe). She interprets ethnographically the nascent community of `vintage lovers' in Bucharest. Making bold claims for the importance of nostalgia without memory, as well as for the quest of authenticity in consumption patterns amongst buyers and specialist sellers, she focuses on an emerging community of vendors/buyers whose rules and practices are still in the process of consolidation. She explores how this community delineates vintage from both mainstream fashion and second-hand style; how consumers of vintage deal with issues raised by accessibility and scarcity (Norris 2012). In identifying how original items of clothing are combined with accessories and new garments, Cristache thus points towards a hybrid type of consumption which merges a pronounced experiential character with minimal mnemonic traces. Roosmarii Kurvits' chapter interprets the evolution of the visual form of newspapers in the context of information consumption. Her analysis is based on the core Estonian-language newspapers from their introduction at the beginning of the 19th century. She reminds us that this media, intended for news transmission, is more than a source of information but also, а la McLuhan, its material container. Readers deduce how to consume the contents of newspapers from their very appearance and physical format. Hence, the visual presentation of information (e.g. page size, topical sequence, habits of segmentation and illustration) crucially provides cues, expected reading paths and triggers for keeping our attention. In short, the visual form of the newspaper directs us on how to use it, acting as an implicit guide for information consumption. Kurvits' contribution demonstrates how during the last two centuries the visual form of Estonian newspapers has become increasingly intensive in assisting readers and guiding their informational choices. She concludes that the visual form or the package 24
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects of information becomes dominant, whereby the content is produced to it into pre-made news templates which have become ends in themselves. he relationship between individuality and consumer products has been a long-debated issue. he Lacanian concept of interpassivity, especially in the form as it appears in the works of Slavoj Zizek, potentially provides a new take on the discussion. hrough this framework, Visa Immonen approaches the Jordan Individual range of toothbrushes, some of them marked with signs of gender. From an archaeology of contemporary design point of view, he distinguishes three narratives in toothbrush histories: the irst, an evolutionary tale of technological progress; the second addresses the practices in which toothbrushes function to bring forth modern notions of individuality; and the third discovers desire present in the practices and implements of oral hygiene. Individuality and its relation to desire, not to mention consumer behaviour, opens up connections between the senses, the material culture of design and psychoanalysis (Marcoux & Howse 2006). In fact, analysed through interpassivity, the claim of individuality in mass products gains discordant currency, although the materiality of toothbrushes also resists too simpliied applications of the concept. Immonen combines the design of the Jordan Individual series with traditional gender signs, providing a key point of reference: that of a securely sedimented place for the consumer to make the product part of an inter-passive arrangement, materialising routine. Meripeni Ngully's chapter discusses a concrete and layered case study dealing with colonial collecting. It begins with the historical complexity of India's Naga Hill people whose territory is south of the state of Assam, in-between Bangladesh and Burma. Ngully's story brings us to these outermost north-eastern reaches via the biographical proiling of John Henry Hutton and Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum. Such a topic provides an apt resume for this section since it aligns itself closely with a body of research that has widened considerably since Talad Asad's critical relections (Asad 1973; Gosden et al 2007). hemes such as cultural ownership, museum repatriation and an attention to the workings of the heritage industry as well as over Empire building processes are certainly near the core of the material culture ethos. What is especially astute in Ngully's contribution is to point out how Hutton's career as a collector should not be segregated from the politics of academic anthropology. Nor can it be understood without considering the needs of both the Pitt Rivers Museum and inter-state tensions more generally. Hutton's collections of Naga artefacts thus provide an archive in tangible form ­ a material documentation ­ of his own experience, entangled as it was in intricate hierarchical networks of compromise, status and power. 25
Patrick Laviolette he inal section, Waste and technologies, is about dystopia and the material fashioning of new Social Discourses. Collectively, the legacy of projects that play with the idea of transforming waste has pushed the limits of the life-cycle analysis of materiality; such research has brought forth evidence which reconstructs the deconstructivist framework of iconoclastic destruction and despair. So for example, abandoned buildings become sites for installation work and discarded objects the source material for `recyclia' artists (Baird & Laviolette 2011). As such, waste itself takes on positive elements of theoretical value. hese conceptual ways of reminding ourselves of our `puritanically' inluenced Western world-view about waste largely arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s, through such ideas as Michael hompson's valuations of rubbish in the UK and William Rathje's garbology in the USA. he two irst papers here are textually relexive conceptualisations which follow in this vein, a literary archaeology (Glaser) and a semiotic relection (Gramigna). Appropriately enough, we then inish with a case study dealing with Estonian cultural perceptions (Raudsepp & Rдmmer). As an examination into futuristic discourses of social reproduction and material realities of power, it is also a itting chapter to bring the anthology to a close since it is the only fully co-authored piece, mirroring Riggins' semi-collaborative dйbut essay. Drawing together theoretical approaches from a triumvirate of literary, ethical and material culture studies, Brigitte Glaser's chapter provides a new reading of the work of Margaret Atwood and Ronald Wright. By examining two of their novels (Oryx and Crake and A Scientiic Romance respectively) she argues that most scholarly explorations of these two stories have emphasised topics connected with their `science iction' layer. Her own reading places the focus on two interconnected and hitherto neglected themes: i) the representation of what is let behind, that is, objects once denoting civilisation but which have turned into rubbish; and ii) the projection by these authors of a new form of alterity, the recognition of which is required of the protagonists in the process of their adjustment to the dystopian surroundings. Combining the approaches of Appadurai and hompson with more recent work by Emmanuel Lйvinas (on ethics of deconstruction), Glaser connects the themes of waste and radical otherness. With regard to the new functions assigned to them in the post-materialist and post-consumerist worlds, which characterise the dystopian settings of the two novels, she examines objects representing the dailiness of human life rather than great achievements of human kind. Furthermore, she raises the question of humankind's fate in a post-apocalyptic setting as depicted in these novels and as related to the status of things. Moving on to less literary but more literal conceptions of waste, we have Remo Gramigna's chapter on the lavatory. he contemporary toilet represents a 26
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects conspicuous part of the daily cleanliness liturgy in occidental societies, featuring a great deal in our everyday `taskscape'. He contends that the WC is a meaningful microcosm insofar as it provides clues for understanding the structural relationship between many categories: nature and culture, the perception of the human body and its bodily wastes, as well as the collective representations of dirt and cleanliness embedded in things. His chapter builds a semiotic approach to toilets which combines three theoretical concepts: Mary Douglas' notion of dirt; Juri Lotman's conception of boundary; and Tim Ingold's dwelling perspective. From these, Gramigna suggests that toilets function as mechanisms of translation between nature and culture for the `dweller' who lives and perceives the landscape, inasmuch as it renders culturally acceptable that which is considered disgusting. he lavatory makes dirt clean, puriies the body via concealment, occlusion, ablution, daily tasks, processes and routines which translate what is meant to be `natural' or `organic' into a cultural phenomenon. Exiting the loo, the volume draws to a close by taking us to a 21st century kitchen table. Maaris Raudsepp and Andu Rдmmer's contribution stays with familiar themes in this section such as dystopia, disgust and the anticipation for techno-ix solutions to environmental issues. In examining the bio-mechanical world, they focus on some sensitive processes of social representation in terms of the design applications and public perceptions of such things as food production through genetically modiied organisms (GMOs). For them, the drama of the personal biography of things lies in the uncertainties of valuation and of identity. In the case of some new technologies, uncertainty is culturally constructed as the blurred boundary between the `natural' and the `unnatural'. Relying on Serge Moscovici's description of the trajectory of an ideological innovation in society, from a scientiic idea into widely known social representation, Raudsepp and Rдmmer show how technological innovations entering into public use evoke similar representational activity and symbolic processes of collective coping. Hence their study reveals some of the ways in which modern biotechnologies produce near-ictional objects with hidden and partly unknown properties. hese are socially constructed in terms of both possibility and risk. GMO crops are thus good exemplars of that new breed of objects to evoke strong and heated responses ­ appearing unmistakably on the scene of public controversy. Stories and how they are stored in things Having skimmed over the intellectual landscape of material culture studies, let us briely consider the research directions which best apply to the present volume's chapters. Picking up from page 5, the impact of continental social theory 27
Patrick Laviolette is relevant to four overlapping areas: i) the heightened attention to everyday life; ii) the marked interest in the body as a social technology; iii) concerns for dystopia and iconoclastic aesthetics; and iv) an on-going fascination with biographical narratives and textual storytelling. A fundamental tension here has been the identiication of a certain epistemological paradox within the material culture arena itself: that language is necessary for interpretation yet impedes true understanding of the material realm. Semiotics, hermeneutics and other language-like conceptual frameworks have made contemporary material culture studies possible, establishing some analytical tools to help comprehend, decipher and make sense of the tangible world. he systematic application of structural and post-structural methods to the object world was certainly part of identifying the material culture niche (Tilley 1990; Gottdiener 1995). Notable in deining and drawing these strands together was Roland Barthes who analysed the role that certain everyday items of popular culture play in the creation of French identity. For instance, by examining a series of globally inluential holiday guides, he could argue against the notion that these items were products for enhancing one's appreciation of travel (Barthes 1957). Nor, he claimed, did they act as educational devices in the service of increasing one's cultural capital, perceptive abilities or geographical awareness. hrough a series of such object analyses, including fashion and photography, Barthes helped inspire a movement that would reveal the extent to which many materialised grand narratives were blinding agents, directing civil liberties and free thought away from the everyday. Once there was an uncovering of the subtle ways in which what was `real' in the mundane history of human experience was actually masked or camoulaged, the micro-politics of the everyday suddenly became a site for manifesting democratic power. In tandem, the domestic became a bountiful terrain for research (Douglas & Isherwood 1979; Csнkszentmihбlyi & Rochberg-Halton 1981). Undoubtedly numerous other factors were at play. Noteworthy, the inluential thoughts about public and private space by Walter Benjamin as well as the mid20th century Mass Observation Project in Britain. Together these also contributed to better understanding, and thus being better equipped to critique, the material regimes of authority. From the perspective of the everyday, semiotics or hermeneutic approaches therefore proved to be powerful. hey ofered accessible and direct means for scrutinising technologies of control ­ they provided a system for challenging normative uses of oppressive material systems. But there has been a diversity of anthropological questions over whether object-focused interests would necessarily exclude the natural/biological world, humans included. In the mid-20th 28
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects century, this was still the established position put forth by those such as John Hutton (1944) who largely discarded human beings as `items' of material culture. But with the ontological realisations that, as a seat for observation, the human body is one of the most direct and immediate features of everyday experience, several factions in the community of cultural theory have compellingly argued to the contrary (Jackson 1996). Already in Entangled Objects (1991), Nicholas homas had anticipated the area of scholarship which has signiicantly begun to focus on the senses, the body, motion and emotion. hat is, to question how our visceral reactions co-exist alongside, respond to and impact upon elements of the material world. "As socially and culturally salient entities, objects change in deiance of their material stability. he category to which a thing belongs, the emotion and judgment it prompts, and the narrative it recalls, are all historically reconigured" (homas 1991, 125). here is indeed a burgeoning of research done under the rubric of material culture studies that currently focuses not only on the senses and emotion but on our kinetic experiences of the world. he theoretical frameworks and methodologies for such studies are at the earlier stages of instituting themselves however. But in terms of the movement of things, a more established set of research guidelines has had time to reine itself over the past dozen years, ever since the conceptual tools (developed more abstractly in the 1980s and 1990s) for studying humanthing relationships were put into ethnographic practice and reined as a result. Given the indivisibility of the subject-object node, which includes the notion that all objects have biographies, then when people move, the biographies of their possessions (and other objects they have with them) change. he investment of accumulated experience onto these moving things will in turn not only change a person's or group's identity but has considerable impact on the world. Heritage, migration and tourism studies have been areas where such concepts have been especially well disseminated (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998). In material terms, movement implies boundaries, pathways, people and power. homas' (1991) metaphor that all these issues are inevitably entangled thus has its own legacy of being played with by numerous authors interested in how (C/)culture unavoidably gets entrapped into discussions regarding aesthetics, agency, creativity and civilisation (Gell 1998; Hallam & Ingold 2007). Discussions about art and aesthetics have been so vast that whole areas of ethnographic ilm/photography and visual culture studies, which equally fall under the rubric of material culture studies, have themselves formed various subields (Banks & Morphy 1997; Forty & Kьchler 1999). New media technologies, from the radio or the Internet through to speciic social networking forums, have also been the subject of fascinating ethnographic case studies. hese it into a 29
Patrick Laviolette recently growing hybrid category of media/digital anthropology (Horst & Miller 2012). Conceptually, these topical issues and debates about creativity are a move forward from what had eventually become an excessively pessimistic iconoclasm of earlier takes on aesthetics and technological developments. Coda Trying to evoke the aegis of a Horace Walpole to provide some concluding wisdom for this introduction proves diicult. Struggling over names of people who certainly know a thing or two about things reveals a vast list of characters who are all so directly involved in shaping the ield. Indeed, there is always a lot missing in any compendium. For instance, the lack in explicitly considering gits, reciprocity or the more purist forms of economic exchange and macro-processes of commoditisation. Yet hopefully the reader will agree that a certain unconventionality allows the chapters which follow to claim a place in the realm of experimentation and methodological innovation. And as a serendipitous forum, the volume points in the direction of topical/futurist possibilities. So the tautological circularity arising out of the observation that things exist as much in culture as cultures exist in things is at least semi-deliberate. Regardless, the point is that the adage concerning the potential for people to make things as much as for things to make people, itself risks misappropriation. Or at least to be taken for granted in its universalising appeal, becoming a vacuous epistemological mantra. Hence, every now and then it becomes necessary to re-highlight the ethno-speciicities ­ the socio-culturalness of objects as it were. Consequently, despite the diversity and complex layers of the following case studies, they provide a contemporary glimpse into the textual fascination with the storying of things. he intention for this book is therefore to present a set of chapters inspired by, and which oten return to, the creative elements inherent to ethno-semiotics, hermeneutics and literary theory. In being sensitive to recent developments within narratology studies, whilst still returning to those classic semiotic and biography of things texts,7 the idea is to continue restoring the balance between the solidity of things and the ephemerality of stories. References Appadurai, A. (ed) (1986) he Social Life of hings: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Asad, T. (ed) (1973) Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. Ithaca Press, Reading. 30
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects Baird, K. & Laviolette, P. (2011) Lost innocence and land matters: community regeneration and memory mining, European Journal of English Studies 15 (1), 57-71. Banks, M. & Morphy, H. (eds) (1997) Rethinking Visual Anthropology. Yale University Press, New Haven. Barthes, R. (1957) Mythologies. Йditions du Seuil, Paris. Buchli, V. (2002) Introduction. - Buchli, V. (ed) he Material Culture Reader, 1-22. Berg, Oxford. Buchli, V. (ed) (2004) Material Culture: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences. Routledge, London. Csнkszentmihбlyi, M. & Rochberg-Halton, E. (1981) he Meaning of hings: Domestic Sym- bols and the Self. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Crang, M. (2012) Tristes Entropique: steel, ships and time images for late modernity. - Rose, G. & Tolia-Kelly, D. (eds) Visuality/Materiality: Images, Objects and Practices, 59-74. Ashgate, Farnham. Dorleijn, G. J., Grьttemeier, R. & Korthals Altes, E. J. (2010) Aspects of authorship: professionalising - posturing - intention. An introduction. - Dorleijn, G. J., Grьttemeier, R. & Korthals Altes, E. J. (eds) Authorship Revisited. Conceptions of Authorship Around 1900 and 2000, ix-xvi. Peeters, Leuven. Douglas, M. & Isherwood, B. C. (1979) he World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption. Allen Lane, London. Drazin, A. & Frohlich, D. M. (2007) Good intentions: remembering through framing photographs in English homes, Ethnos 72 (1), 51-76. Ehn, B. & Lцfgren, O. (2010) he Secret World of Doing Nothing. University of California Press, Berkeley. Fabian, J. (1983) Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. Columbia University Press, New York. Forty, A. & Kьchler, S. (eds) (1999) he Art of Forgetting. Berg, Oxford. Foster, H. (2002) Design and Crime (and Other Diatribes). Verso, London. Gell, A. (1998) Art and Agency: An Anthropological heory. Clarendon, OUP, Oxford. Gosden, C., Larson, F. & Petch, A. (2007) Knowing hings: Exploring the Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, 1884-1945. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Gottdiener, M. (1995) Postmodern Semiotics: Material Culture and the Forms of Postmodern Life. Blackwell, Oxford. Haddon, A. C. (1895) Evolution in Art: As Illustrated by the Life-histories of Designs. Walter Scott, London. Haddon, A. C. (1945 [1934]) History of Anthropology. Watts & Co, London. Hallam, E. & Ingold, T. (2007) Creativity and Cultural Improvisation. Berg, Oxford. Halton, E. (1994) Communicating democracy: or shine, perishing republic. - Riggins, S. H. (ed) he Socialness of hings: Essays on the Socio-semiotics of Objects, 309-334. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. Horst, H. & Miller, D. (2012) Digital Anthropology. Berg, Oxford. Hoskins, J. (1998) Biographical Objects: How hings Tell the Stories of Peoples' Lives. Routledge, London. 31
Patrick Laviolette Hutton, J. H. (1944) he place of material culture in the study of anthropology, he Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 74 (1/2), 1-6. Jaago, T. (2011) Changing surroundings in the life histories of contemporary Estonians. ­ Lukas, L., Plath, U. & Tььr, K. (eds) Umweltphilosophie und Landschatsdenken im baltischen Kulturraum. Collegium Litterarum 24, 291­301. Underi ja Tuglase Kirjanduskeskus, Tallinn. Jackson, M. D. (ed) (1996) hings as hey Are: New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indianapolis. Jхesalu, K. (2009) Erfahrungen und Darstellungen ­ das sowjetische Alltagsleben in der estnischen Erinnerungskultur. ­ Obertreis, J. & Stephan, A. (eds) Erinnerungen nach der Wende. oral history und (post)Sozialistische Gesellschaten. Remembering ater the fall of Communism. Oral history and (post)socialist societies, 329-343. Klartext Verlag, Essen. Jхesalu, K. & Kхresaar, E. (2011) Working through mature Socialism: private and public in the Estonians' meaning-making of the Soviet past. - Bennich-Bjцrkman, L. & Aarelaid-Tart, A. (eds) Baltic Biographies at Historical Crossroads, 68-85. Routledge, London. Keller, M. (2004) Representations of Consumer Culture in Post-Soviet Estonia: Transformations and Tensions. Dissertationes de mediis et communicationibus Universitatis Tartuensis 3. Tartu Ьlikooli Kirjastus, Tartu. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. (1998) Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. University of California Press, Berkeley. Kopytof, I. (1986) he cultural biography of things: commoditization as process. - Appadurai, A. (ed) he Social Life of hings, 64-94. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Kхresaar, E. (1998) Vital things. Objects in life histories, life histories in objects, Pro Ethnologia 6, 29-40. Kхresaar, E. (2002) he Farm as the symbol of the state. Metaphorical depiction of the nation and the state in the childhood memories of older Estonians. - Jaago, T. (ed) Lives, Histories and Identities. Studies on Oral Histories, Life- and Family Stories 2, 169-187. Tartu University Press, Tartu. Korkiakangas, P., Lappi, T.-R. & Niskanen, H. (eds) (2008) Touching hings: Ethnological Aspects of Modern Material Culture. Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki. Labrum, B. & Laviolette, P. (2009) Matter in place (editorial), Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies 6 (2), 1-6. Marcoux, J.-S. & Howse, D. (eds) (2006) La Culture Sensible (numйro spйcial). Anthropologie et Sociйtйs 30 (3), 7-17. Miller, D. & Tilley, C. (1996) Editorial, Journal of Material Culture 1 (1), 5-14. Norris, L. (2012) Economies of moral ibre? Recycling charity clothing into emergency aid blankets, Journal of Material Culture 17 (4), 389-404. Orange, H. & Laviolette, P. (2010) A disgruntled tourist in King Arthur's Court, Public Archaeology 9 (2), 85-107. Quiggin, A. H. (1945) Preface. ­ Haddon, A. C. History of Anthropology. Watts & Co, London. 32
Introduction. Storing and storying the serendipity of objects Riggins, S. H. (ed) (1994) he Socialness of hings: Essays on the Socio-semiotics of Objects. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. Ruusmann, R. (2007) Goods in short supply as a basis for social networks: the case of employees in commerce in Soviet Estonia. - Roth, K. (ed) Soziale Netzwerke und soziales Vertrauen in den Transformationslдndern. Social Networks and Social Trust in the Transformation Countries, 249-276. LIT-Verlag, Mьnster. homas, N. (1991) Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Paciic. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Tilley, C. (ed) (1990) Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and PostStructuralism. Blackwell, Oxford. Vхsu, E. & Kannike, A. (2011) My home is my stage: restaurant experiences in two Estonian lifestyle enterprises, Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics 5 (2), 19-47. Vхsu, E. & Soovдli-Sepping, H. (2012) Smoking out local traditions? Identity and heritage production in south east Estonian rural tourism enterprises, Dynamic Change in Identity Politics (Special Issue). Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore 51, 77-108. Walpole, H. (1960 [1754]) he Yale Editions of Horace Walpole's Correspondence. Volume 20. With Sir Horace Mann, IV. Ed W. S. Lewis. Yale University Press, New Haven. Notes 1 Serendipitously in the literary sense of Horace Walpole's own `agency'. But also in the way Billy Ehn & Orvar Lцfgren have recently considered its methodological implications. In their words: "[...] for some years now there have been pleas for celebrating such unsystematic dimensions of research as aimless rambling and random reading. his trend is encapsulated in the buzzword serendipity, the art of not knowing what you are looking for, and the celebration of creative wild thinking. Yet such labels conceal the cumulative and systematic dimensions of even seemingly anarchistic analytical work" (2010, 218; emphasis in original). 2 See also Quiggin's preface to Haddon 1945. 3 Amongst them the Matiиre а Penser lab led by Pierre Lemmonier and Jean-Pierre Warnier as well as the ield of Science & Technology Studies (STS) epitomised in the igure of Bruno Latour and his subsequent Actor Network heory. 4 his distinction was ampliied by other studies and developments in the USA (e.g. Bill Brown, Jules Prown, W. J. T. Mitchell, etc.). For instance, in the 1980s a group of prominent public historians set up the Winterthur Portfolio, a journal dedicated mostly to the description of American material culture. 5 hank you to Anu Kannike for writing up these paragraphs on the history of material culture studies in Estonia. 6 "For many this is a good thing: it permits artistic diversity; `weak' theory is better than strong; and so on. But [...] [a]ll of us (artists, critics, curators, historians, viewers) need some narratives to focus our present practices ­ situated stories, not grands rйcits" (Foster 2002, 128-129). 7 See for instance Kopytof 1986; Riggins 1994; Hoskins 1998; Dorleijn et al 2010. 33

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