Domestic Objects

In The Comfort of Things, the anthropologist Daniel Miller refutes “the myth of materialism,” the assumption that “our relationships to things” thrive “at the expense of our relationships to people.” He argues, on the contrary, that our experiences with objects and people “are much more akin and entwined than is commonly accepted.” Based on the ethnographic study that he conducted in a South London neighborhood, the book shows that domestic objects not only represent their owners but also accrue meanings from the relationships that their possessors have with other people. Inevitably some of the objects in the households he visited had been intentional or unintentional legacies: They were left to their owners by family members or friends now dead, or, more simply, they were what was left of these loved ones. Photographs, clothes, jewelry, paintings, sports equipment, figurines, tools, and music CD’s are typical of the objects through which survivors remembered, indeed, continued to relate to, those who were gone, and most of the objects were on display in their homes.

Deborah Kaplan

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