Unpacking IKEA: Swed. design for the purch. masses



This book represents the first anthropological ethnography of Ikea consumption and goes to the heart of understanding the unique and at times frantic popularity of this one iconic transnational store. Based on a year of participant observation in Stockholm's Kungens Kurva store - the largest in the world - this book places the retailer squarely within the realm of the home-building efforts of individuals in Stockholm and to a lesser degree in Dublin. Ikea, the world's largest retailer and one of its most interesting, is the focus of intense popular fascination internationally, yet is rarely subject to in-depth anthropological inquiry. In Unpacking Ikea, Garvey explores why Ikea is never 'just a store' for its customers, and questions why it is described in terms of a cultural package, as everyday and classless. Using in-depth interviews with householders over several years, this ethnographic study follows the furniture from the Ikea store outwards to probe what people actually take home with them.
Humanitarian agencies often reach for new designs and technologies in order to meet basic human needs. In the field of emergency shelter, one of the most widely publicized new designs is the Ikea refugee shelter: a flat‐packed, mass‐produced structure that can be shipped and constructed wherever it is required. This shelter aspires to be a universal solution, but since its formal launch in 2013, it has met with criticism and many challenges in the field. Deployed in political contexts in which people have very different expectations of basic shelter, the Ikea shelter demonstrates the limitations of universal standards, the inequities of humanitarianism, and the entwinement of biopolitics and the politics of life. [humanitarianism, refugees, architecture, shelter, design, politics of life, Ikea, Sweden]
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The IKEA store has become one of the world's most recognized and reproduced archives of national culture in the global marketplace, necessitating a critical reading of its spatial narrative. This article engages in a historicized reading of the culturally encoded space of the IKEA store, of which they were 285 in nearly 40 countries by the end of 2008. It argues that the IKEA store helps construct, reproduce, and disseminate a narrative of Swedish exceptionalism worldwide. This narrative showcases Sweden's image as a peaceful, homogenous, and industrious little nation, exemplifying Enlightenment ideals of social and economic progress while avoiding implication in the Enlightenment's more violent aspects. This article engages Derrida's formulation of archival violence to demonstrate how these hidden histories disrupt this archive's dominant narrative. Recovering these histories is particularly important given recent renewed faith in an essential “Swedishness” that has emerged in response to non-Western immigration in Sweden.