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Permanent link (DOI): https://doi.org/10.7939/R3T925

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Bringing the collection to life: a study in object relations Open Access

Descriptions

Other title
Subject/Keyword
material culture
consumption
collecting
Type of item
Thesis
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Morrison, Rebecca
Supervisor and department
Tinic, Serra (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Riggins, Steven Harold (External)
Fletcher, Chris (Anthropology)
Thompson, Guy (History and Classics)
Haggerty, Kevin (Sociology)
Whitelaw, Anne (Art and Design)
Department
Department of Sociology
Specialization

Date accepted
2010-04-15T17:01:43Z
Graduation date
2010-06
Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Doctoral
Abstract
This dissertation investigates how collectibles are made meaningful within collecting communities in order to better understand the intricate processes by which lead soldiers, toy trains, dolls, Dinkie cars, Star Wars figurines, and teddy bears come to be so enchanting for their collectors. An ethnography of toy collecting, including interviews with toy collectors, and observations at toy fairs and gatherings, this project contributes to debates on the use and role of material goods in practices of meaning making and social reproduction. In contrast to theories of material culture, this project aligns itself with consumer theories of the cultural constitution of objects. Emphasizing that object-centered analyses provide little insight on the value of collectibles, it advocates, instead, the centrality of perception and imaginative practice in the hold collectibles come to have over collectors. Drawing from consumer culturalists’ work on processes of identification; Bourdieu’s theory of consumption; Foucault on the archive; as well as Marxist inspired theories of the fetish, this project engages with nostalgic practice, the collectible market, judgments of authenticity, practices of ordering, as well as the complicated rules governing collecting. Working from collectors’ own stories, debates, contradictions, discussions and imaginative engagements this study uncovers that the mutability of the meanings assigned to collectibles is at the heart of collectors’ enchantment with their collectibles, and a central factor in how collecting becomes an eminently political activity. Collectors are not free to construct meanings for their collectibles at will but subject to community constraints, markets and battles of legitimacy. The various mystifications and social maneuverings present in their collecting practices imply that an object’s value is the outcome of a careful mediation of both personal and wider cultural meanings. Mobilized to particular ends however tenuously held their meanings may be, material goods become powerful components to the wider cultural, social and economic fields in which they circulate.
Language
English
DOI
doi:10.7939/R3T925
Rights
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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