How do objects mediate human relationships, and possess their own social and political agency? What role does material culture - such as prestige consumption as well as commodity aesthetics, biographies, and ownership histories - play in the production of social and political identities, differences, and hierarchies? How do (informal) consumer subcultures of collectors organize and manage themselves? Drawing on theories from anthropology and sociology, specifically material culture, consumption, museum, ethnicity, and post-socialist studies, Materializing Difference addresses these questions via analysis of the practices and ideologies connected to Gabor Roma beakers and roofed tankards made of antique silver. The consumer subculture organized around these objects - defined as ethnicized and gendered prestige goods by the Gabor Roma living in Romania - is a contemporary, second-hand culture based on patina-oriented consumption.
Materializing Difference reveals the inner dynamics of the complex relationships and interactions between objects (silver beakers and roofed tankards) and subjects (Romanian Roma) and investigates how these relationships and interactions contribute to the construction, materialization, and reformulation of social, economic, and political identities, boundaries, and differences. It also discusses how, after 1989, the political transformation in Romania led to the emergence of a new, post-socialist consumer sensitivity among the Gabor Roma, and how this sensitivity reshaped the pre-regime-change patterns, meanings, and value preferences of prestige consumption.
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Number of pages: 390
Weight: 760 g
Dimensions: 235 x 165 x 32 mm
"Nuanced, critical and sophisticated in its analysis, Materializing Difference is an exceptional ethnography. Through its fine-grained examination of the entangled trajectories of people and things, it shows how prestige goods are agentive in the social, political and economic lives of the Gabor Roma, and may be said to bring their identity as a distinct community into being." -- Paul Basu, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS, University of London
"In this wonderful book, P ter Berta extends an anthropological tradition, with its roots in Malinowski, that reads circulating objects as generating both politics and status, exemplified by a keen look at the poignant situation of the Roma and a brilliant object-centered ethnography of the painful journey of post-socialist societies such as Romania." -- Arjun Appadurai, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University