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Dismantling mantelpieces : consumption as spectacle and shaper of self in the home.

Hurdley, Rachel. 2006. Dismantling mantelpieces : consumption as spectacle and shaper of self in the home. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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This thesis is an exploratory study of contemporary British mantelpiece displays. Located within anthropological/sociological literatures of the meaning of home, identity and material culture, it opens up the 'focal point' of the domestic interior to scrutiny. This familiar 'homely' space is a strangely invisible presence within the house. Ethnographically-informed interviews reveal its role in the ordering and categorisation of domestic time, space and objects; also family and gender relations. By transforming this taken-for-granted space into matter out of place, ongoing practices of memory, family and home are interpreted as internalised cultural categorisations. The perspective of gift theory reveals frictions between traditional practice and current conflations of self and taste, home and family, in a mass of proliferating materials. Focusing on the mythopoetic gendering of the gift and the house, I show how the mantelpiece is a structuring structure in an order of artefacts including the house and displayed objects. There is a 'gap' in-between the tangible, visual and audible properties of mantelpiece displays which can show the immortal ordinary society of premodern mythopoesis and ordering of power relations. The syncresis of home, memory, family and women is past-oriented and exclusionary, compressing and disguising 'being' - domestication of the body - as 'knowing'. The study employs multi-modal collection methods, such as postal questionnaires, in- depth qualitative interviews, visual data including a longitudinal autophotographic project, Mass-Observation Archive material and architectural histories. Data are analysed from differing perspectives, including narrative/biographic accounts, emergent themes, innovative visual interpretation and historiography/archaeology. Presentation of findings addresses the 'crisis of representation' by using text, photographs and sketches in a bound thesis, a CD-Rom and a website. Using sociological imagination thus problematises everyday processes of 'doing' both social membership and social enquiry. In conclusion, I suggest future multi-dimensional enquiry into the 'gaps' in social/architectural fabric.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
ISBN: 9781303174285
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 05:51

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