Identity matters: juggling domestic materiality and consumption practices in a new setting

For the last decades, Social Sciences have been addressing contemporary material culture and consumption through an extensive number of theoretical and methodological lenses.  From all the outputs this field of research generated, the significance of consumption for identity (re)production stands out. The relationship between people and stuff is today, as in the past, a significant site for identity making and negotiating. As anthropology and archaeology have shown us, things are not just tools to understand the original aspects of each culture, but also means to produce collective life, identity and social relationships. People have always gathered to display and exchange objects. Hence, consumption holds a great potential to express relations of power, alliance, submission, respect, etc. and is, therefore, key to objectify and stabilise identity and position, as well as to regulate social life.

Drawing on three ethnographies carried out in three cities (Lisboa, São Paulo and Toronto) with different migrant communities, this paper aims to discuss two interconnected features of consumption and identity production. The first results from the impacts of movement and displacement both in people and things. The second explores the significance of materiality as a setting for the production, negotiation and stabilization of social identity. What happens to consumption practices when someone moves to a different location? Does movement affect the value, significance and use of stuff brought from home? To what extent are private and public consumption practices submitted to scrutiny and which strategies structure these processes? How does one deal with a new cons reality? This line of questioning aims to contribute to the complex debate of contemporary identity and its relationship with material culture and consumption practices while promoting a comprehensive discussion of consumption and consumerism.

VMMA-Pitt Rivers Museum Seminar Series Hilary 2019

Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre (off Robinson Close)

Fridays at 1pm (Weeks 1-8)

Convened by Clare Harris and Chris Morton