lynn’s weekly commentary

Posted: January 17, 2012 by lynndts403 in Jan 18, Uncategorized

In both ‘Living in a material world: Object biography and Transnational lives’ and ‘In material objects as facilitating environments: The Palestinian Diaspora’, the authors aim to demonstrate how objects can play a significant role in shaping and reflecting one’s experience, function as symbols of ‘ home’ and create a sense of belonging for communities to preserve and perpetuate a collective identity. In addition, transcend space and time and form connections for people through ‘object biographies’ and ‘ facilitating environments’ respectively.

In ‘living in a material world: Object biography and transitional lives’, the authors use ‘object biographies’ to illustrate personal histories of people through an object significant to them. The article portrays two ‘object biographies’: Mrs Guna Kinne’s Latvian National dress and Minh Tam Nguyen creation of the dan tre instrument. I think this article is successful in conveying the significance of objects by illustrating the clear relation between Mrs Kinne’s and Minh Tam Nguyen’s important moments and their respective objects. The formation of the objects not only reflected their histories but also their desire to preserve one’s culture.

In ‘ In material objects as facilitating environments: The Palestinian Diaspora’, Zeynep Turan introduces the concept of  ‘facilitating environments’ which allows the expression of significant aspects of a person’s identity and draws mostly on nostalgia, memory and a heighten sense of belonging within the Palestinian community. Turan explains that objects act as an outlet for the community with a history of displacement to demonstrate their national pride, traditions and belonging.

The interviews done by Turan focused on four members in the American Palestinian community. Turan’s interviews displayed a range of relationships with objects from photographs, a scarf to a back tattoo of the Palestinian flag. I found the interview done on Bashar Khanafi’s tattoo problematic for the meaning behind getting the tattoo came across superficial compared to the other objects that symbolized a treasured past memory. Bashar’s reason for getting the tattoo represented his pride of being a Palestinian yet he didn’t want to be reminded of it constantly nor display it openly. I feel this particular narrative could potentially undervalue the ‘journey’ of other objects such as the national Latvian dress if the sentiment behind the back tattoo of the Palestinian flag could be categorized in the same discourse.

An issue that stood out to me the most in both articles is the importance of recognition of one’s culture to others. A culture seems to become more significant when others recognize it; for recognition seems to elevate one’s culture in status and importance. For instance, Mrs Kienne sought comfort in the fact that the “The keeping ‘alive’ of the National Heritage seemed to assure that our nation was important enough to have a place amongst other nations”( 281).

This then leads me to question if objects that are ‘invented’ are able to represent a connection to home such as the bed in Zeynep’s article, would that then take away from the significance/value of objects to those outside if they find out if it was ‘invented’? Will others looking in see it as something dishonest? Secondly, because people use objects to translate a personal connection to a particular community or territory, are there rules to exclude certain sentiments towards objects? Such as, in my opinion, the seemingly superficial sentiment’s behind Bashar’s tattoo.

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