Cultural Biography of Vintage Products – Sociology
Do people who wear vintage clothing ask themselves where the product comes from and who made it? Who wore the item before and what style it used to be in that period of time? If you are a person who wears vintage do you think about the ‘career’ your items went through? And how does the status of a product change when the product gets older? At the moment I’m working on my Master thesis in Cultural Sociology. I thought it’s about time to give you some insights of what is keeping me busy. I want to share a theory with you that popped up the questions above in my head. It’s about the ‘cultural biography of things’, a theory of Kopytoff.
From a cultural perspective, the production of commodities is also a cultural and cognitive process: commodities must be not only produces materially as things, but also culturally marked as being a certain kind of thing. (Appadurai, 1997)
Kopytoff explains in his theory ‘the biography of things’. In doing the biography of a thing, one would ask questions similar to those one asks about people; Where does the thing come from and who made it? What has been its career so far, and what do people consider to be an ideal career for such things? What are the recognized ‘ages’ or periods in the thing’s ‘life’ and what are the cultural markers for them? How does the thing’s use change with the age, and what happens to it when it reaches the end of its usefulness? (Kopytoff, 1986) I find his theory interesting when you think of secondhand, vintage products. What do you think?
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