Home Possessions: Material Culture Behind Closed Doors

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Daniel Miller
Bloomsbury Academic, Oct 1, 2001 - House & Home - 234 pages
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Although so much of the life we care about takes place at home, this private space often remains behind closed doors and is notoriously difficult for researchers to infiltrate. We may think it is just up to us to decorate, transform and construct our homes, but in this book we discover a new form of 'estate agency', the active participation of the home and its material culture in the construction of our lives. What do the possessions people choose to take with them when moving say about who they are, and should we emphasize the mobility of a move or the stability of what movers take with them? How is the home an active partner in developing relationships? Why are our homes sometimes haunted by 'ghosts'?.

This intriguing book is a rare behind-the-scenes exposť of the domestic sphere across a range of cultures. Examples come from working class housewives in Norway, a tribal society in Taiwan, a museum in London, tenants in Canada and students from Greece, to produce a genuinely comparative perspective based in every case on sustained fieldwork. So Japan, long thought to be a nation that idealizes uncluttered simplicity, is shown behind closed doors to harbour illicit pockets of disorganization, while the warmth inside Romanian apartments is used to expel the presence of the state.

Representing a vital development in the study of material culture, this book clearly shows that we may think we possess our homes, but our homes are more likely to possess us.

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About the author (2001)

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology, at the University College London. Recent books include 'A Theory of Shopping', 'The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach' (with Don Slater) and Ed. 'Car Cultures'.

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