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Practices of Object Maintenance and Repair



This article examines the practices of object maintenance in the home. Drawing on depth ethnographic research with households in north-east England, the article uses three object stories to show that ordinary consumer objects are continually becoming in the course of their lives in the home and that practices of object maintenance are central to this becoming. Located in a field of action and practice, consumer objects are shown to display traces of their consumption.The practices of object maintenance are shown to attempt to arrest these traces, not always successfully. A spectrum of practices of object maintenance is identified, ranging from routine cleaning, wiping and polishing, through quick-fix repair, to the more thorough-going restoration.The object stories show how restorative acts generally rekindle consumer objects; how other forms of repair (the quick-fix mask) are socially problematic, signalling the devaluation of objects; and how the failure of object maintenance can connect to the sabotage of objects.The success or failure of object maintenance is shown to have profound consequences for the social lives of consumer objects. More broadly, the article highlights the importance of consumer competences (and incompetence) with respect to object maintenance, and argues that object maintenance works to integrate consumption, connecting home interiors with acts of acquisition, purchase and ridding.
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Gregson, N. and Metcalfe, A. and Crewe, L. (2009) 'Practices of object maintenance and repair : how
consumers attend to consumer objects within the home.', Journal of consumer culture., 9 (2). pp. 248-272.
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object maintenance and repair : how consumers attend to consumer objects within the home.', Journal of consumer
culture., 9 (2). pp. 248-272. Journal of consumer culture is available online at:
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Gregson Page 1 02/04/2013
Practices of object maintenance and repair: how consumers attend to consumer objects
within the home
1. Nicky Gregson: Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
2. Alan Metcalfe: Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
3. Louise Crewe: School of Geography, University of Nottingham
Note: all images are © of first author
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This paper examines the practices of object maintenance in the home. Drawing on
depth ethnographic research with households in North east England, the paper uses
three object stories to show that ordinary consumer objects are continually becoming
in the course of their lives in the home and that practices of object maintenance are
central to this becoming. Located in a field of action and practice, consumer objects
are shown to display traces of their consumption. The practices of object maintenance
are shown to attempt to arrest these traces, not always successfully. A spectrum of
practices of object maintenance is identified, ranging from routine cleaning, wiping
and polishing, through quick-fix repair, to the more thorough-going restoration. The
object stories show how restorative acts generally rekindle consumer objects; how
other forms of repair (the quick-fix mask) are socially problematic, signalling the
devaluation of objects; and how the failure of object maintenance can connect to the
sabotage of objects. The success or failure of object maintenance is shown to have
profound consequences for the social lives of consumer objects. More broadly, the
paper highlights the importance of consumer competences (and incompetence) with
respect to object maintenance, and argues that object maintenance works to integrate
consumption, connecting home interiors with acts of acquisition, purchase and
Key words
practices consumer objects maintenance/repair competences value
This paper is a contribution to the growing body of work in both consumption and
material culture studies that is responding to the challenge of taking materiality and
practice seriously (Dant, 2005, 2008; Gregson, 2007; Miller, 2005; Shove et al, 2007;
Watson and Shove, 2008). A noteworthy feature of recent research in both fields,
materiality is now firmly on the agenda for both, if in various guises. In material
culture studies, for example, recent research on cloth and clothing has begun to
explore the depth to practices of wearing rather than the often imputed surface
meanings of clothing (Hauser, 2004; Küchler and Miller, 2005; Gregson, Brooks and
Crewe, 2001; Woodward, 2007). Elsewhere, questions of materiality have been
pursued through a focus on object agency (see in particular the increasing number of
studies that draw on Gell, 1998), whilst work on temporality has emphasised the ways
in which objects work to materialise memories (Attfield, 2000; Kwint, 1999; Hallam
and Hockey, 2001; Snyder, 1998), as well as their transience and ephemerality
(Colloredo-Mansfeld, 2003; Dant, 2000). In Tim Ingold’s work questions of
materiality have been approached through a focus on the generation of artefacts
(Ingold, 2000). Rather than think about artefacts in terms of the making of a pre-
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determined, prior form, Ingold sees form coming into being through the gradual
unfolding of that field of forces set up through the active and sensuous engagement of
practitioner and material […] through the pattern of skilled movement and […] the
rhythmic repetition of these movements” (ibid: 57). This phenomenological approach
to materiality is one that has affinities with recent advances in consumption research,
in which the activities of consumption have been rethought through practice (Warde,
2005; Hand and Shove, 2007; Shove and Pantzar, 2005). Drawing on writers such as
Reckwitz and Schatzki, we find here the same insistence on the importance of the
non-human object world, of the conjunction of body and objects in actualising
activities, of routine repetition and of skilled competence to both stabilising practices
and understanding consumer investments in particular practices, be these as diverse as
Nordic walking, driving or freezing food. One key distinction between the two
positions, however, is in the treatment of form: whereas for Ingold form becomes
through movements that entwine practitioners (human and non-human) and materials,
form in practice-centred accounts is more a matter of object capacity. Thus, whilst
attention is certainly paid to design in these accounts, here form is subsumed in the
object, which in turn works to condense practice; it affords the capability and capacity
to do an activity in a particular way and works to stabilise practices such that they
continue to be performed in these ways. Less becoming, more become, a consequence
is that the object in such accounts remains strangely unaffected by the practices it
In this paper we move from this last point, taking Ingold’s central insight about the
becoming of form to show that this has considerable potential both for advancing
understandings of consumer objects within the home and in further developing
practice-oriented accounts of consumption. The general point we want to make is that
consumer objects are continually becoming in the course of their lives in the
domestic. They are, then, neither finished nor inviolable forms at the points of
production and acquisition, but rather are better regarded as continually evolving,
positioned within and affected by an ongoing flow of consumer practice, as well as
enabling of practices. In turn, what this means is that we need to acknowledge that
consumer objects have physical lives, alongside and entwined within their more
familiar social, cultural and economic lives (Appadurai, 1986; Kopytoff, 1986). These
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physical lives, we maintain, are of profound significance to understanding both
consumption practices and the social lives of things. Thus, it is not just that objects
vary in their capacity to disclose and display consumer competences in the manner
of Alan Warde’s examples of various types of cars, or of the differences say between
a Colnago racing cycle and a hybrid bicycle but that physical materiality matters to
the performance of practices. Most obviously, as Graham and Thrift (2007) point out,
consumer objects break down. They age; they stop working as well as they once
might have done. Physical failure and deterioration have implications for actualising
practice, disrupting and intervening in habitualised ways of doing particular activities.
Such eventualities require object repair or replacement/substitution to ensure that
capacities are reproduced and that particular practices might continue to be actualised
appropriately. Given the changing economics of repair, for most consumers repair is
now applicable primarily to high cost items, most notably cars and personal
computers, as well as home infrastructure objects, for example: boilers, radiators,
solar panels (Dant, 2005). Other consumer objects think kettles, toasters and irons,
cameras or radios are, by virtue of cost economies, more likely to be jettisoned
should they fail or deteriorate, to be replaced with a new(er) model. With such objects
failure and/or deterioration connect frequently to the physical death of a particular
object, its connection to the waste stream and transformation into other, sometimes
constituent, materials. Socially, however, a routinised practice demands a replacement
or substitute object (Gregson, Metcalfe and Crewe, 2007). The moment of
replacement, whilst enabling the resumption of a temporarily interrupted practice, is
nonetheless critical to consumer practice: for consumers it involves working out often
subtle new ways of doing habitualised activities think of a mobile phone upgrade, or
of going from analogue to digital photography; of the arrival of a new washing
machine or cooker, or of a new car purchase. All involve a sense of learning to do
again and of experimenting with objects, in a way that disappears with familiarity, but
which equally well may result in the neglect or abandonment of the new, precisely
because of its initial unfamiliarity. Such moments mark the point at which
practitioners and objects come together anew, forging subtly new conjunctures
between body and objects, and slightly new routines and sets of competences, to
reinstate and stabilise a particular practice.
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Less obvious, perhaps, than commodified acts of repair and object replacement is the
routine, mundane work of consumers on object maintenance. Less explored in
consumer practice research where the emphasis thus far has been on practices
involving objects with designed/manufactured capacities to do and/or enable certain
actions object maintenance involves consumers in attending to objects as well as
doing specific activities with particular objects. Nonetheless, maintenance is itself a
practice. Indeed, maintenance practices centre object care: typically, they are about
the conservation and preservation of things. Although they would include activities as
diverse as defrosting the freezer, recharging phones and cameras, and checking and
repairing the brakes and tyres on a bicycle, the types of activities we are thinking of
here are largely cleaning related, dusting and polishing, washing and wiping.
Involving substances and preparations such as soaps, detergents, bleach, furniture
sprays and polishes, mediating materials (cloths of all permutations, brushes, gloves),
and a human cleaner (often female), such practices, as enacted in the home, work to
renew the appearance and often tactility of consumer objects, through the removal of
substances that either adhere to or work their presence into objects, dust, spills, grime,
bacteria, in short, social and physical ‘dirt’. Whilst undeniably related to discourses of
domestic health and hygiene, cleanliness and respectability (Madigan and Munro,
1996; Skeggs, 1997), ‘dirt’s’ presence and removal through these practices is
indicative of our general point: that objects are continually becoming in their lives in
the domestic. Indeed, the practices of cleaning, wiping, polishing and so on can be
seen as concerted attempts to arrest decay; to stave off the corrosive and
contaminating effects of other physical substances on both people and things; to
protect and conserve consumer objects.
In short, these practices endeavour either to
keep consumer objects in or return them to their pristine state (as when new), to freeze
the physical life of things at the point of acquisition and to mask the trace of
consumption in the object.
The paper develops and illustrates the general point about the becoming of consumer
objects in homes, focusing specifically on practices of object maintenance as enacted
One of the ironies here is that the abrasive properties of certain cleaning substances may actually
erode the surfaces of consumer objects, in the manner of things ‘biting back’ (Tenner, 1996). That they
might do so is not the point however, for culturally such products are understood as working to clean.
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by consumers within the home. Our primary vehicle here is three object stories taken
from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in North east England in 2003.
The object
stories illustrate four general tendencies with respect to object maintenance:
restoration and preservation, the social limits to certain types of restorative repair, the
difficulties certain materialities pose for restorative maintenance work, and the
importance of consumer competences with respect to restorative practices. The
restoration and preservation of the ‘as good as new’ or as ‘near to new’ is, of course,
central to the curatorial tradition, and to museum and gallery practices of care and
display (see, for example, Dean, 1994; and for a more critical literature: Kreps, 2003,
2006; Simpson, 1996). But, as we show here, it is equally applicable to what goes on
in domestic settings. The practices associated with heirlooms, collections and
mementos are all instances of a curatorial tradition in the domestic. Safely displayed
and/or stored away from everyday activity in cabinets and display cases, these
objects’ importance as purveyors of meanings is signalled by the care directed toward
their protection and to the physical integrity of the object itself. To protect the object
is to protect and preserve the meanings it carries. But not all objects are positioned
thus in the home. Rather, many consumer objects are handled, used as implements
and/or tools to do something else with, picked up, moved about, put down. In this
way they can be dropped, knocked, fall. Other objects consumer durables,
appliances, furniture and furnishings whilst less mobile are both repeatedly used and
positioned in an on-going flow of action. They too encounter other forms and
materials. As such, the physical integrity of ordinary consumer objects in home
interiors can be seen as open and alterable, perhaps irredeemably, perhaps not, given
the possibility of restorative cleaning and making good both damage and blemishes
through repair.
It is this restorative/conservative work with ordinary consumer
objects that the paper addresses.
The research was funded by ESRC (R000239972), 2003 5. The ethnographic field research on
which this paper is based was conducted by Nicky Gregson. It involved 16 households and 38
individuals living in a former coal mining village in County Durham and in a suburban setting on the
edge of the Newcastle conurbation (Gregson, 2007). It was supported by longitudinal depth interview
work with 59 households living in Nottingham. The full research report is available at: and via .
The range of products available for attempting to repair damaged domestic objects and materials is
considerable. In the UK, Vanish™ (a carpet and soft furnishings cleaning preparation) and Aruldite™
(a glue that repairs china, plastics and metals) are just two of the most common.
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For comparative purposes the paper focuses on pieces of living or dining room
furniture (see too Money, 2007). Located within a comparable field of action within
the home and manufactured from relatively robust, durable materials, for the most
part wood and/or strong fabrics, furniture tends to endure.
Typically it is the focus of
routine acts of cleaning including dusting, vacuuming and polishing; activities which
are enacted weekly in many households. Further, our research showed that such
objects tend to be the sorts of things people find hard to get rid of, or difficult to find
reasons felt sufficient to justify their getting rid. Nonetheless, the three objects
highlighted disclose contrasting stories and different trajectories. In all three
instances, the type of care and attention directed at these objects proves critical to
their subsequent social life. Our first instance features a dining room table that has
been in the possession of Ted and June, a couple in their mid seventies, for nearly 50
years; our second is a TV-video cabinet belonging to Peggy and Harry, a couple in
their early sixties and early seventies respectively; and our third is a cream leather
three piece suite, owned by Clare and Nathan, a couple in their mid twenties.
2: Restoration and preservation: an Ercol dining room table
In 1956 ‘newly-wedsTed and June bought their first home, a semi-detached ‘end-of-
terrace’, ‘newly-built property with a large garden on the edge of the London
conurbation. Whilst the house was being built they spent much of their free time
looking at furniture and furnishings. They went to the Ideal Home Exhibition, bought
various home interior magazines and looked in the showrooms of numerous
department stores, seeking inspiration but also searching for furniture that
encapsulated both a look and their identity, as individuals and as a couple. Looking
back, June emphasises the importance of utility furniture in shaping their ideals: what
they sought in their furniture was not just durability and good design, but a design that
escaped ‘the functionality of utility’, that had a ‘lightness’ to it, and that conveyed
It is instructive that many of the households in this research still had pieces of furniture bought (or
gifted) at the time of marriage and/or partnership formation. This was particularly the case with older
and middle aged households. Thus, whilst these were homes in the 2000s, they were simultaneously
homes which, in material culture and design terms, had strong legacies in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and
1980s. Such tendencies were particularly apparent in relation to living and dining room furniture. Not
only do they show that this type of material culture endures, they also complicate accounts that posit
homogeneity between contemporary homes and contemporary design. The reality in terms of home
interiors is historically far messier.
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what they were aiming for in their lives. Amongst their purchases were an Ercol
dining table, six chairs and a matching sideboard. These pieces were seen first as an
advertisement in an Ideal Home magazine
, and then encountered in a department
store showroom. Once found Ted and June looked no further, for this was the dining
room furniture that they recognised ‘to be us’. They ordered the furniture, taking
delivery of it three months later.
Constructed from beech and elm, this dining room furniture immediately satisfied
Ted’s valuation of the material qualities of wood. Almost 50 years later this
appreciation still infuses his understanding and description of these objects, which is
paralleled by a lifetime of working with wood, making small pieces of furniture
(tables and bookcases), constructing wall-hanging shelving, and carving small
ornamental pieces. Talking about this table, carried with them through several moves
and now located in a room in a house on the edge of the Newcastle conurbation
(Figure 1), Ted describes the table top, ‘with the beautiful surface warmth and colour
of elm’ (Figure 2), ‘hand-selected by craftsmen’, ‘machine-planed and waxed to
finish’, contrasting this with the ‘lighter coloured, tapered beech table top legs’. The
‘machine curved back and lattice dowel supports’ of the chairs, ‘each drilled and
glued into the seat’ (Figure 3), is contrasted explicitly to his mother’s Windsor chairs,
the Ercol chairs’ good design working to highlight the inadequacies of these others
that ‘were always coming unglued poor design’. Underneath the table, the frame
and flap mechanism (Figure 4) are demonstrated to work simply and smoothly,
appreciated for the way they enable the table to reduce, taking up less space just as
easily as it can accommodate a family around it.
Figures 1 4 about here
For June, the attractions of these pieces once encountered lay less in an appreciation
of the quality of their construction and rather more in their conjunction of ‘delicacy’,
‘strength’ and ‘comfort’. Not only did this table and chairs look right to her, but the
chairs in particular felt right to her. She appreciated and still does the ‘sensual
sweep’ of the chair backs, ‘as you hold the chairs your fingers sort of sweep round’,
See Chapman (1999). For further illumination of this particular period in the history of British
interiors, see: Attfield (1989), Partington (1989) and Attfield and Kirkham (1989). .
Gregson Page 9 02/04/2013
and she likes the way in which the chair itself enfolds her sitting body; ‘coming round
at the back, it holds you’.
Ted and June’s initial narratives about their dining table and chairs are classics of
objectification: social and cultural meanings are imputed into the form of these pieces
and the pieces themselves are seen to stand for the people Ted and June wanted to be
in the mid 1950s. That there is far more to the relationship between Ted and June and
these pieces however, is hinted at even in these initial narratives, particularly in how
they talk about their respective embodied encounters with them. June’s holding,
stroking and sitting, and Ted’s demonstration of the furniture’s fabrication both
emphasise that objects such as tables and chairs are continually encountered felt,
touched, held and, as here, sat in and at and leaned on and over in the course of
domestic life.
As we see now, this domestic life was of profound importance to the
subsequent social life of Ted and June’s dining room table.
By the 1960s, Ted and June had three children and the dining room table and chairs
had become a focal point in the household. As June says of that time, ‘So many tasks
had to be performed on that table’. Not only was it the site for family meals, the place
where the family sat around and was constituted through the practices of shared
eating, but it was also where the children did activities such as painting, drawing and
‘model-building’ (‘trains and planes’), where June sewed clothes for herself and for
her children, on a Singer hand sewing machine, and where Ted did work that he
brought home in the evenings. Notwithstanding that newspaper was brought out to
cover and protect the table’s surface, spillages occurred. Black and green model paint
stained the table, penetrating its varnished surface; fountain pen ink had become
ingrained in the wood grain and a series of deep grooves marked the sewing
machine’s absent presence. For Ted, the appearance and accumulation of these stains
and grooves in the table’s surface became increasingly problematic. Indeed, their
presence in the table’s surface ‘made it look (to him) as if the table was being
abused’. Allied with a strong sense of the normative, ‘that this table should be sat
An interesting aside here is that this furniture figured centrally in conducting this research. Visits to
Ted and June’s home included meals at this table, and seated in these chairs, whilst recorded
discussions invariably took place at the table, rather than in other potential areas of seating, such as
their living room or their conservatory. That the table was the appropriate location for the research
seemed to be very much taken-for-granted by Ted and June. As such, it is through sitting at and around
this table that the importance of this furniture became apparent, insisting that its story be told.
Gregson Page 10 02/04/2013
round, not used for …’ Ted felt that his family ‘had gone a bit far’. They had ‘not
treated the table with respect’, a respect that he felt its design and material qualities
Of course, an academic observer could point here to Ted’s apparent fetishising of this
table. Others might question, as June still does, his valuation of this table over the
familial activities it facilitated. More interesting, however, is what Ted then did with
this (to him abused) table and the subsequent effect of these practices, both on what
was then done around this table and on the location of other family practices. Some
time in the 1970s the couple cannot remember exactly when - Ted removed the
polished surface from the table, stripping off the finish with various grades of
sandpaper to ‘get back to the natural wood’. He then worked at eradicating the stains,
marks and indentations that had permeated the polished surface, ‘a hell of a job’.
Having removed these traces, he then set about restoring the table to the finish he
remembered it having when he and June had bought it, applying a ‘natural polish’ of
beeswax and turpentine, ‘not Mr Sheen!’
Working successive layers of this
preparation into the grain of the wood, Ted was satisfied only when he had both
brought the wood ‘back to life’ and achieved a ‘silk-smooth’ finish to the table’s top.
Once restored, however, June recounts how ‘everyone (then) had to do things
elsewhere. We (she means her and her children) had been displaced’. So, June’s
sewing machine was displaced to being used in the kitchen, whilst her children had to
do their activities (model building, homework) at ‘makeshift desks’ in their bedrooms.
The dining room table itself was now reserved for family meals. In 2003 and several
house moves later, its primary purpose was still precisely this, to hold and constitute
the family through shared family meals. Restored and preserved, it was still being
routinely cared for by Ted, using the same brand of beeswax polish that he had
originally used to restore it, a preparation whose properties are understood by him to
‘feed, preserve and nourish’, ‘to cherish it, not just keep it clean’. The table and chairs
therefore carry a weightiness that is a duty of care. Whilst they enable the feeding of a
Ted’s ‘not Mr Sheen’ is itself an important positioning statement. Mr Sheen is a mass-market, spray-
on furniture cleaning preparation, widely available in UK supermarkets. Its appeal is that it offers quick
and easy furniture cleaning. By implication, Ted is saying here that such products (and such spray-wipe
techniques) are not proper ways of caring for wooden furniture. Indeed, and significantly, Ted
understands proper furniture care to involve ‘natural’ products (beeswax) and hard manual labour
(working-in). His understanding of furniture care then is one that attends to an understanding of wood
and its properties.
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family, as objects too they are seen to require feeding. In being cared for, this
furniture is seen by Ted to ‘come alive’, disclosing its grains, knots, and subtleties of
colouration in different lights and shades, and a surface that he delights in; one so
smooth that a cloth glides across the table top and then floats to the floor.
The story of Ted and June’s dining room table and chairs is a story about the
restoration and preservation of consumer objects. This Ercol table emerges here as an
object that is continually being generated in the conjuncture of people, activities and
materials within this household, that is, in a field. Further, what is generated is shown
to be as much about blemishes, imperfections, traces and additional presences, as it is
about the restoration of the idealised original and its preservation. What we also see in
this story however, is how consumer objects are both the medium and the means
through which social relations (in this case of family) are worked out, indeed
performed. Specifically, it is through what Ted does with and to this object through
the practices of restoration and preservation, that he impresses his valuations of things
on his family, displacing the activities of other family members through the threat that
they are known to pose to this particular object and the labour of love that restored,
and continues to maintain, it. The story of Ted and June’s dining room table, then,
works to highlight that consumer objects are continually becoming in consumption
practices and that their becoming enacts key social relations, for what is done on and
at this table, the physical trace of these practices, and the subsequent practices of
restoration and preservation disclose entirely the social dynamics of Ted and June’s
Practices of restoration of the type performed by Ted highlight the importance of
attending to and caring about ordinary consumer objects in the home. As illustrated by
Ted, they connect to value systems that work to preserve and protect the resurrected,
pristine object, and they resonate closely with other sites of curatorial working,
notably the gallery and the museum. There are, however, other ways in which
consumers work with repair. These involve the use of various preparations and
materials that make good through masking particular blemishes and flaws. It is such
activities and their limitations that feature in our second story.
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3: The social limits to quick-fix repair: a TV-video cabinet
Like Ted and June, Peggy and Harry are an older couple, with adult-children and
grandchildren. They live in a one-bedroom bungalow which they rent from the local
authority. On moving to this rented bungalow from a larger house, they had to get rid
of much of their existing furniture and furnishings, replacing these things with others
that would fit in to the far smaller dimensions of their bungalow. In order to furnish
their new living room, Peggy and Harry bought a large mahogany-veneered pine
display cabinet, three matching upholstered chairs and a mahogany-veneered pine
TV-video cabinet, the latter from Argos (Figure 5).
Figure 5 about here
The living room at Peggy and Harry’s is always immaculately tidy and spotlessly
clean, for like the majority of women living on this street - Peggy vacuums and
dusts on a twice-a-week basis and polishes the furniture at least once a week.
However, during the course of the ethnographic fieldwork, the street on which Peggy
and Harry live underwent a programme of modernisation work (Gregson, 2007).
Valuing their furniture and anxious that this should not be damaged, the couple
moved all the small pieces in their living room to a secure outdoor shed. The larger
pieces of living room furniture, however, had to remain in situ, for Peggy and Harry
had nowhere else to store them. Instead, they moved these pieces to the middle of the
living room, constructing a large pyramid from their furniture and covering this with
layers of old cotton and plastic sheets. The one exception to this was the TV-video
cabinet, which was declared by Peggy as ‘having to take its chance with
modernisation because of the importance of TV viewing in this household.
Come modernisation and the inevitable happened. One morning when the window
fitters were replacing the living room window, and when electricians and plasterers
were working simultaneously in the bathroom and kitchen, traipsing backwards and
Watching films is a key part of Peggy’s daily life: largely confined to the house and garden by her
increasing immobility and ill health, afternoon films are one of her few opportunities to escape life in
the bungalow and on the street. For Harry too, the TV schedule provides a key rhythm of daily life.
Regular day time news broadcasts, which he invariably watches, signal the mid-day meal, and his
evening entertainment is largely provided through the TV or video, particularly on those nights when
Peggy is out playing bingo.
Gregson Page 13 02/04/2013
forwards through the bungalow via the living room, the TV-video cabinet got
damaged. Somehow although none present admitted any knowledge a small but
noticeable slice of mahogany veneer had been spliced off, disclosing the pine wood
beneath (Figure 6).
Figure 6 about here
Peggy and Harry’s response to this discovery, beyond their immediate anger at the
lack of care and the dishonesty displayed by the council workmen, is instructive.
Getting down on his hands and knees to inspect the damage closely, Harry
pronounced that he could quite easily repair this, using filler and stain to make good
the gouge. For Peggy, however, this response was sufficient to precipitate an
explosion. Maintaining that the repair would be a waste of time and effort because she
would always be able to see it, and that it was just as easy to go out and get a
replacement from Argos
, Peggy made it clear to Harry that he was not to waste time
and energy in effecting the repair but should instead ‘just get rid of it’. Used to such
explosions as part of living with Peggy, Harry eventually shrugged and retreated
outside to his greenhouse, whilst Peggy carried on ranting (to the researcher) about
Harry’s inability to see that her view about what to do with this TV-video cabinet was
self-evidently the right one.
For approximately another two weeks the TV-video cabinet remained in situ in the
living room; modernisation work carried on and so did daily life. One day, though,
Peggy returned from one of her numerous shopping trips armed with a box from
Argos. She had purchased what she described as an identical TV-video table, for £12
‘a bargain’. Placing the box in ‘the pyramid’ of protected furniture, stating ‘there’s
no point getting it out to be ruined’, Peggy simultaneously instructed Harry to ‘sort
out getting rid of the old one’. Without a car, Harry typically draws on three main
Argos is a mass market UK catalogue retailer appealing to value shopping.
Throughout the fieldwork, Peggy would engage in routine bouts of what can only be described as
‘ranting’ or impassioned moaning to the researcher about life with Harry. Indicative primarily of the
frustrations of cohabitation in a very small dwelling structure, these outburst were invariably short-
lived, resolved normally by cups of tea and biscuits. Yet they were undoubtedly facilitated by the
presence of an adult female researcher, whom Peggy regarded both as automatic unconditional support
for her views (against Harry’s) and as a conduit to release her frustrations. That the support was not
always there is evident in this story, in which down on the floor the researcher was engaging with
Harry in discussing the possibilities of repair!
Gregson Page 14 02/04/2013
conduits to move along Peggy’s ‘rubbish’ declarations, wheelie bins (theirs and a
neighbours), the council bulky waste collection service and a single elderly male
neighbour. Too large to be fitted in the wheelie bin, and according to Harry’s
valuations insufficiently damaged to be declared ‘rubbish’, Harry organised the
passage of the TV-video cabinet to this elderly male neighbour, in so doing both
accommodating to living with Peggy and subverting her value declarations. With the
completion of the modernisation work, the table was duly carried along the street.
Peggy and Harry then set about restoring order to their living room, finally
assembling the new TV-video cabinet. They accomplished this with no glitches. But,
after placing the cabinet in ‘its place’ and putting the TV on top and the video on a
shelf, they realised that this object was no identical replacement. In place of one space
for a video recorder were two spaces, one for a video recorder, the second for a
DVD player/recorder. Laughing about her ‘mistake’, which left them with a piece of
furniture ‘staring at us obviously missing something’, Peggy used this as an
opportunity to go out and buy a DVD player.
Aside from the lived frustrations and tensions of everyday domestic life, which it
discloses so vividly, the story of Peggy and Harry’s TV-video cabinet, like that of Ted
and June’s dining room table, shows the importance of a field to the becoming of
consumer objects. Moreover, as with Ted and June’s table, the TV-video cabinet
discloses how the social relations of cohabitation are enacted in ordinary consumer
objects. Unlike Peggy and Harry’s other pieces of furniture, which tellingly remained
covered by cloth and plastic for the duration of the modernisation work, being
positioned in the flow of the activities of modernisation exposed the TV-video cabinet
to accidental damage. In turn, damage exposed the pale colouration and rough,
splintered texture of spliced pine wood. Harry’s response to this noteworthy in that
it is similar to Ted’s – is to suggest physical restoration. But in this case repair is seen
to involve the use of manufactured preparations (imitation wood filler i.e. plastic).
What this suggests is that, for Harry, consumer objects can be restored by attending to
line. To restore the edge using fabrications of an approximately matching colour will
suffice, for him. That they will not for Peggy is, we suggest, about three things:
because this restored object would be known by her to be inauthentic; because the
presence of the repair would testify to a temporary lack of care for their things; and
because to retain the repaired would be to suggest that they either could not afford or
Gregson Page 15 02/04/2013
were too thrifty to go out and buy a (known to be cheap) replacement. This is worthy
of comment. As the person who cleans their home, routinely spraying and shining-up
their furniture using Pledge
, Peggy knows that a restored filler will not ‘come up’
like the former veneer surface; that its dullness will advertise the presence of a
different substance in the wood, disclosing the edge as a fake. Further, for Peggy, as
for so many of the other women who live on this street, to keep things looking like
new, through care and cleaning, lies at the heart of social respectability (Skeggs,
1997). Preserving consumer objects as new is critical in this endeavour. So, to hold on
to and to continue to clean that that has deteriorated through (a temporary) lack of
care is potentially a source of shame for Peggy, particularly since she knows that she
can restore her respectability (and therefore social order) at a stroke, through
purchasing a new and cheap replacement from Argos. Indeed, not to go out and buy
the new replacement would have been both to contest the valuation placed on the
new/just-as-new on this street and to challenge prevailing understandings of the
bargain, in which spending (rather than making-do i.e. repair) is the means to saving
(Miller, 1998). Harry’s suggestions, then, whilst they made perfect sense to him, were
ones that threatened his wife’s identity, going to the heart of her identity as a
consumer, as well as a woman living on this street; hence her ire and invective.
Peggy and Harry’s TV-video cabinet tells a story that shows the social limits to repair.
Nonetheless, it is a repair story, albeit a failed one in this household, and one that was
initiated by exactly the kind of accidental damage to objects that results from co-
presences and over-lapping consumer practices in home interiors. In this respect it is
very similar to Ted and June’s dining room table. Our final story, however, moves to
an altogether different register, highlighting that consumer objects in homes are not
only restored and repaired but also intentionally and irrevocably damaged by
consumers. Such deliberate acts of sabotage are a key means by which the social life
of things in particular homes come to be terminated.
Pledge is a brand of furniture cleaner not dissimilar to the Mr Sheen discussed in footnote 7.
It is important to note here that researching what happens to objects in home consumption can be a
difficult type of fieldwork, as risky for participants as for researchers who find it necessary to tell
difficult stories, such as the one that follows, about people through what they do with and to their
things. Ethically this poses major dilemmas. What we have done here therefore is to mess this story up,
to use not just pseudonyms but also to muddy the composition of this household and its history. What
we cannot change however, is the object, for this is what our story is about, and changing the object
changes the story, to a degree that the story no longer makes sense.
Gregson Page 16 02/04/2013
4: The failure of maintenance and subsequent sabotage: a cream leather three
piece suite
Living on the same street as Peggy and Harry are ’20-somethings’ Clare and Nathan,
and their five year old daughter Abigail. Unlike Peggy and Harry, Clare and Nathan
used the opportunity afforded by modernisation to get rid of all their furniture,
furnishings and appliances, replacing these with new purchases. Throughout the
modernisation work, however, they held on to a cream leather three piece suite, as this
provided them with their only form of seating at the time (Figures 7 and 8). The story
of this three piece suite is as follows.
Figures 7 and 8 about here
Having lived together initially in a small one bedroom flat, Clare, Nathan and the then
toddler, Abigail, moved to a three-bedroom council property with a large living room.
At the time (the end of the 1990s), cream furniture was the height of mass-market
fashion in furnishings, and cream leather in particular filled the display areas of all the
major out-of-town mass-market furniture retailers. Like many women living on this
street, Clare wanted a cream suite for their new living room. As with Ted and June’s
dining room furniture, this suite appeared to her at the time to say everything about
her and Nathan as a couple. It was fashionable, modern and up to date, and buying it
was seen to impute the same qualities to them. However, whilst the suite was infused
with these meanings at purchase, living with it started to become rather more
troublesome, particularly for Clare. As we have already seen with Peggy, the
appearance of things is critical to social respectability on this street. And what Clare
began to find was that keeping a cream three piece suite to (socially) appropriate
levels of cleanliness was practically impossible. Try as hard as she could, wiping,
washing and vacuuming, the cream started to assume shades of grey, and the more
visibly grey it looked the more her female relatives openly criticised her standards of
cleaning and capacity to clean. As a consequence, and fairly understandably, Clare
found herself starting to hate this suite. Telling this story amidst the chaos and mess of
living in a structure that was in the throes of being modernised, both Clare and Nathan
emphasise how the surface of the sofa and chairs have not only ‘turned grey’ and
Gregson Page 17 02/04/2013
‘sagged’ but developed a feel that is ‘sticky and cacky’ to the touch. This is no
exaggeration: sitting in it, the sofa feels adhesive, adumbrated by unknown, invisible
substances. Sitting in it is not a pleasant tactile experience. But what is also noticeable
about this sofa is that its arms are criss-crossed with red and blue biro and felt tip pen
doodles, etching the lines, creases, seams, buttons and puckerings of the sofa’s
fabrication in leather. These doodlings are Abigail’s work. Reasoning that they have
already bought a new leather three piece suite, this time in black, ‘to hide the dirt’,
Clare and Nathan admit that allowing Abigail to doodle on the surface of the cream
leather during modernisation has been their way of legitimating their decision to get
rid of the cream suite. Risking a different, but equally censorious, set of moralities
around appropriate parenting, such desperate acts disclose how imperative it is for
Clare and Nathan to get rid of these things. Whilst grey-ing, sticky and cack-filled
surfaces might suggest that all that is necessary to rekindle this suite is a thorough
clean, the presence of permanent inks in cream leather is sufficient to propel it from
the category ‘dirt’ to the less contentious category of the ‘irredeemably trashed’,
thereby rendering it indisputably of rubbish value. Knowing that the surface of this
suite is insufficient of itself to legitimate its discarding looking dirty as opposed to
damaged Clare and Nathan draw on the social innocence of their daughter, and their
position as parents, to enact the sabotage.
As with the previous stories, Clare and Nathan’s cream leather three piece suite
exemplifies the general point that consumer objects continue to become in their
consumption within the home. It also shows the importance of signs of over-
consumption to the subsequent social lives of consumer objects. Furthermore, like
Peggy and Harry’s TV-video cabinet, it shows that restorative practices involving in
this case cleaning are not always successful. Indeed, in this instance it is Clare’s
inabilities as a cleaner that are highlighted, exacerbated further by the suite’s
fabrication in cream. Where the story departs from the previous two, however, is in its
disclosure of how people work negatively, and not just positively, with objects, not to
effect restoration but to enact the sabotage that legitimates the ridding and/or the
destruction of consumer objects. Clare and Nathan’s suite was eventually carried
away from their house by the local authority bulky waste collection service.
Journeying thus, it will have been broken, crushed and swallowed-up by the giant
jaws that bar the entrance to the collection vehicle; turned to waste by its positioning
Gregson Page 18 02/04/2013
within the socio-technical management systems of the waste industry. In allowing
their daughter to enact the sabotage, however, Clare and Nathan also demonstrate that
consumer objects not only become but are the medium for the enactment of the social
relations of cohabitation, in this case of parenting. In this, their three piece suite is no
different from either Peggy and Harry’s TV-video cabinet or Ted and June’s dining
room table.
5: Conclusions
Our primary aim in this paper has been to show how consumer objects are continually
becoming in the home and how consumers work with a range of restorative and
conservative practices to maintain consumer objects; to arrest the traces of their
consumption. By way of conclusion we make three points, highlighting the range of
practices of object maintenance and their connection to value regimes; the
competence and incompetence of consumers with respect to object maintenance; and
the importance of object maintenance to the meta practice of consumption.
The range of restorative/conservative practices has been shown to be a spectrum. At
one end is routine cleaning and care Peggy’s spraying with Pledge, Clare’s washing
and wiping, Peggy’s dusting, Ted’s polishing with beeswax. This connects through
minor repair (Harry’s presumption to use filler) to – at the other end full scale
refabrication (Ted’s restoration of the table surface). In terms of the emergent debate
on repair (Graham and Thrift, 2007), these findings suggest two distinctive modes of
domestic repair. The first is the type of restoration performed by Ted. Grounded in
practical knowledge of working with and in wood, with particular tools, and an
appreciation of both materials and tools, Ted’s rekindling of this ordinary consumer
object is in the manner of the craft consumer (Campbell, 2005). The second type of
domestic repair is the quick-fix mask, in which further goods (e.g. glue, filler) are
used to make good. Critically however, such materials are either visibly present in the
repair itself or cannot fully erase the trace of the damage to the object. Further, whilst
working with such products requires a degree of skill think of working with ceramic
glues these acts of repair are neither fully restorative of the object nor do they
require the type of knowledge and skills displayed by Ted. In turn, both types of
repair connect to different value regimes within the home. Thus, as has been shown,
Gregson Page 19 02/04/2013
refabrication not only restores the object to its pristine state, it places the object in a
frame that preserves and protects. In so doing, refabrication has moved this table from
being an ordinary consumer object and the focal point for a range of consumer
practices to becoming a higher value object, reserved exclusively for practices
perceived to pose no threat to its form. If not quite in the spatiality of the collection,
this table certainly has aura. In contrast, the presence of the quick-fix mask form of
repair in an ordinary consumer object works to devalue it. Indeed, in the case of
Peggy and Harry’s TV-video cabinet, this type of repair cannot be effected, precisely
because in this particular home it would highlight the object to be of rubbish value.
That such repairs can be enacted in other homes however is indicated by the object’s
passage out of this home and into another, moving seamlessly as it does so through
devaluation, rubbish and revaluation (Thompson, 1979). Correspondingly, domestic
repair emerges from this research as a means by which consumer objects move
between value regimes within the home; as a means to both object devaluation as well
as revaluation; and as a thoroughly situated social practice.
A second point made forcibly by the three object stories is that consumers have
different competences with respect to the practices of object maintenance. Whilst this
is clear in the actions of both Ted and Harry, it is in the third object story that
competence or, more precisely, its lack - emerges most strongly. Clare is not a
skilled cleaner. Her female relatives tell her this to her face, and the object she bought
discloses this too. The effects of incompetence in this case are that what began its
social life in this home as an object of desire morphed into an object of hatred, with
serious consequences for its future social life. Clare and Nathan’s cream leather suite,
then, belies accounts that focus on the stability in meaning of consumer objects, as
these are bought and/or acquired. It shows that the location of consumer objects in
particular homes and within particular sets of consumer competences has profound
implications for the meanings of these objects and for their transience/durability
within particular homes. Furthermore, it shows the potency of consumer
incompetence, which emerges here as critical in the engagement of subjectivity and
object. More than this though, we see here how the effects of particular purchases
endure. Thus, Clare’s choice of a black leather suite as a replacement is not the
fashion statement it might seem. Instead, bought expressly to hide the dirt, its
presence bears the trace of the cream predecessor, of competence’s lack, and hints at
Gregson Page 20 02/04/2013
how consumer purchases connect up and are shaped by everyday practices beyond the
point of sale.
Our third and final point is that the seemingly mundane world of consumer-enacted
object maintenance and its associated constitutive practices is of considerable
importance to the meta-practice of consumption (Warde, 2005). The restorative and
conservative practices illustrated in this paper show that object maintenance is not
only constitutive of the social lives and biographies of consumer objects a classic
position within material culture studies but that object maintenance itself holds
consumer objects in homes. It is therefore central to the stability and order of
particular homes in things. In practice terms, then, object maintenance works to
integrate: it ensures that particular objects remain home possessions, freezing
particular rooms in certain configurations, even as with Ted and June’s dining room
furniture transcending house moves. Equally, the failure of object maintenance has
been shown to be disintegrative. Whether we take the instance of Clare and Nathan’s
cream suite or Peggy and Harry’s TV-video cabinet, consumers failure to maintain
objects introduces social disorder. Further, and that order be resumed, connects to the
expulsion of the over-consumed object from the home (its ridding) and insists on the
purchase of a replacement object. In this way the failure of object maintenance in the
home emerges as a key driver in consumer acquisition/purchase, whilst its success is
seen to mitigate against such acts. In 2001 Daniel Miller challenged consumption
research to cross the threshold and properly enter the home. Doing this through depth
ethnographic research we encountered home interiors that were seemingly frozen in
terms of their furniture, at the time of their formation as a household. What is now
clear is that the practices of object maintenance are critical in accounting for such
stability. More broadly, we would argue that in a very real sense object maintenance
drives the consumer world, much as Graham and Thrift have argued that it constitutes
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... Research has documented the 'possession rituals' (McCracken 1986) that consumers employ to intentionally appropriate objects as possessions: 'material transformations' (Türe and Ger 2016) that alter an object's material form (McCracken 1986;Türe and Ger 2016), 'compositional transformations' (Türe and Ger 2016) that repurpose objects within different material and spatial ensembles to alter or reinforce their meanings (e.g. practices of storage and display) (Belk 1995;Miller 2008;Türe and Ger 2016), and 'curatorial practices' (Scaraboto et al. 2016), whereby consumers care for their possessions through acts of cleaning, maintenance, and repair (Gregson et al. 2009;Godfrey et al. 2021;McCracken 1986;Scaraboto et al. 2016). Through such possession rituals, consumers exercise control over, come to intimately know, and invest themselves into objects, and thus appropriate them as 'mine' (Belk 1988;Belk et al. 1989;McCracken 1986;Pierce et al. 2003). ...
... While possession is typically produced, maintained, and transformed by possession rituals and other intentional consumer-object interactions initiated by consumers, external forces may disrupt the consumer-object relationship. For instance, other individuals or companies may transform, damage, or steal the object (Hill 1991;Jenkins et al. 2014;Watkins et al. 2016), Furthermore, repeated use may cause an object to become dirty, to deteriorate, or to break (Godfrey et al. 2021;Gregson et al. 2009;Scaraboto et al. 2016), whilst new objects or changing consumption practices may disrupt an object's use or meaning (Epp and Price 2010). Such destabilisation may compel further possession rituals, such as repair (Godfrey et al. 2021), cleaning (Scaraboto et al. 2016), or re-incorporation (Epp and Price 2010). ...
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The objects we consume increasingly exist in digital form, from audiobooks and digital photographs to social media profiles and avatars. Digital objects are often argued to be less valued, personally meaningful, and self-relevant than their physical counterparts and are consequently dismissed as poor candidates for possession. Yet, studies have identified highly meaningful, even irreplaceable, digital possessions. In this article, we account for these contradictory narratives surrounding digital possessions, arguing that digital objects are not inherently unsuited to possession, but rather their affordances may not align with consumers’ imagined affordances (i.e., the object affordances that consumers anticipate). Drawing from a qualitative study of 25 consumers and their digital possessions, we identify three recurring types of affordance misalignment—missing affordances, covert affordances, and deficient affordances—that mediate how consumers and digital objects interact (pragmatic mediation) and, consequently, consumers’ experiences of, and beliefs surrounding, digital objects as possessions (hermeneutic mediation). We demonstrate that these affordance misalignments can create obstacles to consumers’ desired experiences of possession and document consumers’ attempts to overcome these obstacles by employing alignment strategies, with varied behavioral outcomes. This article advances debates surrounding digital possessions and presents an enriched affordance theory lens that provides new insights into possession.
... [54], depending on product type [26,55,56] -Product in need of repair is viewed as obsolete, while potential replacements satisfy urge for new [35] -Technological development and marketing push towards replacement (need to 'keep up') [57,58] • Social pressure towards newness and shaming of people who keep using older technology [35] -Positive self-image from new [59] -Poverty connotations with old and mended [35], [60][61][62] -Despite the poverty connotation with repair, affluent people are found to engage in high levels of repair [44,61] -'New' as a requisite for social belonging [27,35,59] • Potential financial and emotional benefits of repair are not widely known [63,64] • Lacking time and skillset can prevent DIY [27,60], while those with time and skills might be hindered by negative connotations with the activity [65] • Previous repair experiences and exposure impacts future repairs [36], [27], [37], [66], [65], [35], [67][68][69]. • Repair habits are crucial for repair behaviour, which is impacted by attitudes, emotions, and the level and nature of previous repair experiences [36] • Repair motivation is primarily related to the product, the individual, and the individual's relationship to the products [ [33,35] • People tend to want to maximise the utility derived from the product, which manifests in a reluctance to discard [72,73] • Repair is against the business models of most manufacturers (i.e. repair cannibalise on sales of new) and the traditional pursuit of economic growth at large [8,74] -Short product cycles and marketing efforts discourage repair [30,55] • Economic considerations consist of, e.g. the price of the current device, a replacement, price of the repair (i.e. ...
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... Products can also become obsolete for technical or functional reasons (i.e. the function is inferior to newer models), making it undesirable, or even impossible, to prolong the product's lifetime [26]. However, working against psychological obsolescence tendencies and in favour of a repair outcome is the observed reluctance that people have towards the discarding of objects [72], and thereby foregoing unused utility still embedded in the malfunctioning product [73]. As discussed above, (perceived) value is context specific; the decision on what to do is rarely between repairing or not, but more realistically between repairing and buying new, see, e.g. ...
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Product repair plays an important role in the realisation of a circular economy (CE) and sustainable consumption, yet little is known about what repair entails for individual product owners or users, particularly in a realised CE. This paper proposes a comprehensive approach by conceptualising repair as a multi-stage, cyclical process, shaped by previous experiences and, in turn, impacting future repairs. Moreover, we acknowledge and consider that the repair experience is determined by both internal (to the individual) and external (environmental) factors, which overlap in the individual’s interpretation of the process, primarily as perceived cost vs. benefits. Using a literature review, the role of the individual and key factors influencing the repair experience are discerned and organised according to their relevance within the process. This comprehensive perspective of the repair experience of individuals generated a wide range of insights, including the existence of general vs. specific factors and the prevalence of themes in the repair process. Implications for the upscaling of repair and future research are suggested.
... From a domestic consumer perspective, repair does not hold a clear definition. For example, Gregson et al. (2009:248) identify a range of 'restorative acts' related to domestic repair, ranging from quick-fix repair to the more thorough-going restoration (Gregson et al., 2009). Furthermore, (Terzioglu, 2021) categorizes repair depending on the skill level of the person carrying out the repair. ...
... -MCR Fieldnotes -Deterioration and the subsequent need to invest time either to repair or rejuvenate items are commonplace with second-hand goods (Hetherington 2004;Gregson et al. 2009); as is a 'pre-purchasing evaluation' by customers as to whether it's possible to fix or 'cleanse' an item (Gregson et al. 2000, p. 115). The customers in the first two excerpts above accept this, thus they minimise the importance of the faults when a discount is declined. ...
This article uses a micro-ethnographic approach to investigate the shop-floor presence of ‘professionalisation’ in the UK charity shop sector. Previous literature on charity retail has described how business-like, professionalising practices have invaded their operations (Gregson and Crewe 2003, p. 75). However, these arguments focus upon top-down processes, without observing how these are played out by actors within the physical space of the charity shop itself. A key component of second-hand culture is the variable nature of value within it – and value is all the more unpredictable in a time of global flux. Using the examples of price negotiation and haggling behaviours on the charity shop floor, this study concludes that professionalisation of charity retail is tempered by customer/worker interaction and social imperatives. Thus, charity shops house a hybrid of professionalised and non-professionalised actions and behaviours that demonstrate the value systems and humanity of shop actors. These ‘participant-driven experiences’ of value negotiation enable those on the shop floor to challenge the ‘iron cage’-like characteristics (Weber, 1977) that have infiltrated the 21st century second-hand world: bureaucracy, rationality and impersonality.
... The arrangements that are made in this house could not be classifi ed in either of the two categories identifi ed by Gregson, Metcalfe and Crewe (2009). The restoration of the object is not sought to return it to a pristine state that leads to its preservation and increase of value. ...
... One aspect of taking responsibility is to repair and reuse the things we have. In doing so, we learn how they are made, what materials they use and how their useful life can be extended (Graham and Thrift 2007;Gregson, Metcalfe and Crewe 2009;Houston 2013). Bicycles, while simple machines, require maintenance and occasional repair. ...
This article explores cancel culture as a material endeavor on the ground. We draw on ethnographic tools to call attention to formative material dimensions of canceling and employ the conceptual lens of material culture to analyze rationales and practices around the canceling of objects. The case study concerns how ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel manage allegations of sexual abuse against a beloved author by engaging in a myriad of material-canceling actions around his books. We cluster and investigate these actions under three categories: Time-Out, Taking Out, and Casting Out. We offer the term Material Cancel Culture as a productive intervention in a literature that generally focuses on the discursive and digital components of cancel culture. The multiplicity of possible material (dis)engagements allows us to move beyond a somewhat dichotomous outline of cancel versus not-cancel, and to consider how the material immediacy and properties of objects open up new scripts of action in response to public sentiments of rage and critique.
Current research on the formation of inner spatial culture and art of ancestral halls in Lingnan, China, reveals discontinuities in historical and spatial dimensions of plurality, locality, and culture. These traits are influenced to some extent by the interaction of broad political settings and micro-geographical elements, and their relevance to the cultural transformation of Lingnan ancestral halls remains blurred. With the aid of text mining algorithms, this paper analyzes the factors influencing the interior spatial characteristics of Lingnan ancestral halls from the perspective of cultural geography. It then deciphers the logic of cultural formation behind those spatial characteristics through the dimension of “time-space-geography,” offering new insights for the study of the cultural heritage value of ancestral halls. The research process shows that: 1) the number of space widths and depths in Lingnan ancestral halls is typically in the singular system; 2) the size of the construction of Lingnan ancestral halls has decreased through time; 3) the number of space widths and depths in Lingnan ancient halls did not exhibit a wholly positive link with their dimension. The study concludes that the main developmental lineage in the construction of the Lingnan ancestral halls culture is the economic and cultural push directed by political influence. The functional adjustments made to ancestral halls somewhat mirror those made to the clan genealogy and cemetery ritual systems, but they are not set; rather, they evolve as the state’s politics and the economy alter.
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Effective repair practices are identified as a key strategy to prolong product lifetimes. This study examines how repair practices differ across product categories at repair cafés in Denmark. 370 incoming products are divided into four categories: static, mechanical, electrical, and electro-mechanical, and are then evaluated based on fixers' previous reparability experience. Each type was found to have varying critical repair steps, barriers, reparability likability, and tools needed. Overall, this study highlights the importance of understanding critical repair steps and barriers to promote sustainable consumption practices and may inform future product design and repair support initiatives.
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Methodologies of affect and embodied materiality are key components of the second-hand embued in clothing and fabrics. These ideas are the unspoken, the hidden areas of tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is seen as the raw data in research, which reveals itself as strands; it is visible data driven by its transparency, such as the predictions for growth in second-hand markets over the next five years. Making is a key component of tacit knowledge, as it is in the making where hidden knowledge can be made and embedded. The emotion and affect embodied in the second-hand can be embedded in the visible repairs or the additions that can create unique meanings within artefacts, beyond looking at the fabric manufacture, or garments on the surface. It is this hidden origin which is the tacit, and the reasons why the second-hand can have value and a unique quality not necessarily attributed to those garments made at the designer level. The second-hand does play an important role in the original materials, where tacit knowledge forms the part of embodied materiality, encompassing the meaning of the work in making, and making new meaning in repairing. This application of tacit knowledge can be embedded, as used fabrics can be used to make new uses for materials that can hold emotional meaning. Using these seamless methodologies allows another meaning that reveals itself in the work that goes beyond the surface fabrics of the second-hand. This article is based on reflections and discussions in a hands-on repair workshop held as part of the Second-hand Cultures in Unsettled Times Symposium, in which participants were invited to work on their own repairs. KEYWORDS Repair, tacit knowledge, affect and emotion, second-hand clothing, design research CITATION Findley, Jules (2022), ‘Second-hand and the Tacit’, JOMEC Journal 17, ‘Second-hand Cultures in Unsettled Times’, ed. Alida Payson, Triona Fitton, Jennifer Lynn Ayres, pp. 206-224. DOI:
Each morning we establish an image and an identity for ourselves through the simple act of getting dressed. Why Women Wear What They Wear presents an intimate ethnography of clothing choice. The book uses real women's lives and clothing decisions - observed and discussed at the moment of getting dressed - to illustrate theories of clothing, the body and identity. Woodward pieces together what women actually think about clothing, dress and the body in a world where popular media and culture presents an increasingly extreme and distorted view of femininity and the ideal body. Immediately accessible to all those who have stood in front of a mirror and wondered 'does this make me look fat?', 'is this skirt really me?' or 'does this jacket match?', Why Women Wear What They Wear provides students of anthropology and fashion with a fresh perspective on the social issues and constraints we are all consciously or unconsciously negotiating when we get dressed.
Shortlisted for the Design History Society Scholarship Prize 2001-2002 What do things mean? What does the life of everyday objects after the check-out reveal about people and their material worlds? Has the quest for the real thing become so important because the high tech world of total virtuality threatens to engulf us? This pioneering book bridges design theory and anthropology to offer a new and challenging way of understanding the changing meanings of contemporary human-object relations. The act of consumption is only the starting point in objects lives. Thereafter they are transformed and invested with new meanings that reflect and assert who we are. Defining design as things with attitude differentiates the highly visible fashionable object from ordinary artefacts that are taken for granted. Through case studies ranging from reproduction furniture to fashion and textiles to clutter, the author traces the connection between objects and authenticity, ephemerality and self-identity. But beyond this, she shows the materiality of the everyday in terms of space, time and the body and suggests a transition with the passing of time from embodiment to disembodiment.
This article proposes that social scientists should explicitly recognize the existence of consumers who engage in ‘craft consumption’ and, hence, of an additional image of the consumer to set alongside those of ‘the dupe’,‘the rational hero’ and the ‘postmodern identity-seeker’. The term ‘craft’ is used to refer to consumption activity in which the ‘product’ concerned is essentially both ‘made and designed by the same person’ and to which the consumer typically brings skill, knowledge, judgement and passion while being motivated by a desire for self-expression. Such genuine craft consumption is then distinguished from such closely associated practices as ‘personalization’ and ‘customization’ and identified as typically encountered in such fields as interior decorating, gardening, cooking and the selection of clothing ‘outfits’. Finally, after noting that craft consumers are more likely to be people with both wealth and cultural capital, Kopytoff’s suggestion that progressive commodification might prompt a ‘decommodifying reaction’ is taken as a starting point for some speculations concerning the reasons for the recent rise of craft consumption.
Using examples of indigenous models from Indonesia, the Pacific, Africa and native North America, Christina Kreps illustrates how the growing recognition of indigenous curation and concepts of cultural heritage preservation is transforming conventional museum practice.
Foreword 1. The Problem Defined: The Need for an Anthropology of Art 2. The Theory of the Art Nexus 3. The Art Nexus and the Index 4. The Involution of the Index in the Art Nexus 5. The Origination of the Index 6. The Critique of the Index 7. The Distributed Person 8. Style and Culture 9. Conclusion: The Extended Mind Bibliography Index