Archive for the ‘Jan 18’ Category


Posted: January 26, 2012 by lilzak in Jan 18

January 17, 2012 The Diasporic Lives of Objects Geraldine

An object not just an object when it is used to enhance the identity of a community.
The article by Shankar makes clear the ties a Desi family have with their extended family and community through ‘objects by relying on borrowed, rented, or even imagined encounters with them. The narrations of these objects seem to be a way they inadvertently add value to the owner and the community thus creating further need for more consumption. I would seem as though the language use also shapes identity, status and value of the people through the objects. So, it’s as though the community lives vicariously through the objects. It is a collectively agreement that they will value themselves and their community by these carefully chosen objects.
The idea that “consumption has been described as a language of communication, it is most often considered in the absence of words” is powerful because we often think of consumption in terms of desire, and status or prestige but very unlikely as a form of communication. We don’t often think that a CLK or a TV would say something about the individual or community. The saying ‘actions speaks louder than words is appropriate here because the act or acquiring objects say so much about who we are.
The Desi community does not seem to value the objects in and of themselves. They value them in the context of the community even though it is the individual that acquires these objects. The community value of the Desis takes precedence over the individual a traditional value. The consumption of objects helps to reinforce the community’ value of cohesion regardless of the struggles they face in the outside world. The objects aid in their value of the community by maintaining its validity. Thus when they meet at social gatherings, the objects help to enhance their collective identity when they use language to convey the stories attached to these objects. This is what Shankar refers to as “symbolic communication in which objects alone, in the absence of words, communicate meaning” and these objects are used as “metaphor [that] can give form to ideas precisely because literal language seems inadequate. The narrative of objects goes beyond the community because they can be seen and shared over and over again with different people who encounter the community or its members

[Object]ive Truth

Posted: January 18, 2012 by innocentk in Jan 18

Schamberger’s article entitled Living in a material world: object biography and transnational lives illustrates the way in which objects have been used to connect the migrant experience to Australia’s cultural heritage. In many ways, the Australian Journey’s Gallery makes an effort to incorporate the possessions of migrants as a way to include these stories into the Australian cultural identity. These objects have the capacity to elicit memories and emotions that tie directly to a person’s country of origin, as is shown in Mrs Kinne’s object biography on her Latvian national dress. Schamberger uses object biographies to demonstrate the interconnected relationship between the story teller and the object. Mrs Kinne’s national dress is particularly interesting because it functioned as a political tool in protest against Australia’s recognition of Latvia into the Soviet Union (Schamberger, 287). The dress in this case was particularly important in asserting a sense of national sovereignty, and thus rejecting the Soviet invasion. In this sense, I would agree with the author’s assertion that objects exert agency in ways that are interconnected to someone’s personal experience.

The second article by Zeynep Turan entitled Material Objects as Facilitating Environments” the Palestinian Diaspora, takes a closer look at how objects contribute to a personal sense of identity, especially in victim diasporas. Interviews were conducted and a snowball technique was used to gather participants. The author specifically targeted members of the Palestinian diaspora who “possessed objects that tied him or her to the family history and the experience of dislocation” (Turan, 47). Therefore, it is important to recognize that Turan’s illustration of the Palestinian diaspora is a depiction of one segment of this diaspora. With this said, Turan makes a lot of valid points with regard to the use of objects in the construction of diasporic identity. This fact can be particularly evident in communities that are considered to be stateless, and therefore the objects become national symbols to each individual, similar to that of Mrs. Kinne’s national dress. Turan makes a poignant statement when he mentions that Hiam’s “collective identity as Palestinian is manifested through a collection of objects” and that this represented more importantly a “material confirmation of the existence of Palestinians people.” (Turan, 44). In this regard, Turan is essentially proposing that objects are the agents of identity and it is through these cultural objects that we can self identify as being part of a particular diaspora.

The articles by both Schamberger and Turan speak to the ways in which objects have the ability to elicit an emotional response or trigger a memory that directly ties into nostalgic feelings of an imagined homeland. It’s not some much that the objects define who we are, but that we define the objects meaning in relation to our own identity, and it is from here that the object takes on greater meaning ; and so something as meaningless as a dress to the general public, takes on great significance to those in the know. Turan speaks of a collective identity that is derived from these objects, therefore my first question would then be; can someone’s personal experience with an object elicit the same response from the community it is linked to? Secondly, can the transnational experience truly be object-centred, or does someone’s experience with an object create that linkage with a perceived homeland?

Laura’s weekly review week 2

Posted: January 18, 2012 by macdo142 in Jan 18


The objective of Material Objects as Facilitating Environments: The Palestinian Diaspora (2010) by Zeynep Turan examines material possessions of members of the Palestinian diaspora in the United States in order to differentiate between collective memory and the social phenomenon of remembering which is an individual act: two concepts that have in the literature been traditionally undifferentiated. The purpose is to recognize that the object provides a two way-street for identity; objects are given importance by members of a diaspora but should also be recognized for how their physical properties themselves can determine their meaning, to what extent and to what quality, they experience a sense of belonging. Depending on the physical way they interact with a person, can influence in what manner these objects transmit emotive responses, trigger memory and reproduce and re-invent identity

The narrative strategy is to relate her finding through the words of her subjects. Her most effective strategy is to link each participant with their own individual sense of attachments to Palestine in order to contextualize the relationships with each object. A good example of this is the contrast between Hiam Sabat and Samy Malik. Sabat whose parents, through their own efforts to reproduce the ‘old country’ in her childhood home, have instilled in her a “profound bond” with her home land, On the other hand, Malik’s parents did not make a concerted effort to transmit that sense of home, yet his contact with Palestine at school sparked in him a desire to trace his roots. Each participant is free to state how they conceive their identity.

the author builds off the theoretical framework of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and his behavioural notions of how relationships between material objects and self-identity  create spaces of single generational security. The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand how a diaspora with a legacy of displacement, a strong sense of homeland (both culturally and spatially) yet without the legal structures to validate them,  gives long-term continuity to their sense of collective identity through personal objects, in a multicultural setting, for the purpose of determining predictive patterns of behaviour of preservation (e.g. the idea to return)

Turan’s research is based on qualitative field research using American born persons of Palestinian descent. Although she does not explicitly state her methods of analysis, it appears that she is evaluating the participants responses in relation to their social situation. More importantly she is seeking to determine individual relationships between objects and the person in order to prove that not all objects can evoke feelings in the same way and that it is not always us who give meaning to the object, but the other way around. for example, Samy Malik’s treasures his tea pot because it was inherited through his grandmother, but since it does not relate well with his concept of a strong and political Palestine, he limits his interactions with it (and therefore its association with his heritage).

the author clearly articulates her objectives and claims at the beginning.  however she does not  clearly place her research in context to a research problem at hand. it was more useful to read the conclusion in which she makes the research question clearer, It was only at the end that I better understood the gap she was trying to bridge (i.e. the role objects played in facilitating transitions for a diasporic group member and the role the materiality of that object produced long term identities). I felt there was more validity to her conclusions than the Shankar article’s because she selected a sample for her field research. Her methods were well thought out because her research participants had to meet a requirements (at least one family member who had experienced dislocation and possess an object that tied them to that family history) which was relevant to the research question. At the same time she does not make it clear how she probed for her answers to her questions. It was unclear whether her questions were standardized and neutral or if it was more informal and open to dialogue. her clear use of example and her reference to psychological research, made a convincing argument

The Turan reading gives valuable insights as to how multifaceted the conceptualization of home is within the diaspora and provides a description of the nation building process outside of the more homogenizing mechanisms of Anderson’s “Imagined Community”


The Objective of Metaconsumptive Practices and their Circulation of Objectifications (2006) by Shalini Shankar is to introduce language into the studies of objects and diaspora within the middle-class Desi population of the Silicon Valley CA, in order to demonstrate how discourse within their diasporic community determines the meanings of the relationship with those objects.

Objects need not belong to an individual in order for it to transmit meaning and mediate relationships within the community: The manner in which material aspects of objects are talked about referentially and the way social status of the object is indexed, is a process of producing an objective reality that can disseminated through visual representation to be experienced by others. Physical objects can therefore belong to many members of the community through the appropriation of ownership through familial ties.

In the Shankar reading, I have methodological concerns with evidence she has gathered for her argument. While participants are free to express how they conceive their identities in Turan’s research, Shankar method is to be a direct participant as a community member in order to gather qualitative information. Thus the narrative style of the article at times feels more story-like rather than factual (thinking of the case in which 19 year old Simran spends time looking for her red wedding outfit and explaining her cancelled arranged marriage). Perhaps she is trying to illustrate the values in the community which she mentions can underpin “consumption and style in this diasporic community”. However she also admits that she will contextualize metaconsumption in a ”broader discussion…in order to illustrate how it works within this specific community”. Therefore the reading would have been less confusing if many examples of various communities were used to elaborate on this broader consumption, or if clearer examples of how the narrative related to their values of social prestige and status.

The Shankar article provides insight on how environment can influence the degree of nostalgia and the motivations behind remembering. In the first reading, some of the participants say that living in New York among so many national backgrounds, caused them to desire a tangible relationship with their origins, while in Metaconsumption, the Desi community were surrounded with their own culture, making a hybrid of their roots and American lifestyle more mainstream.

Bridge the Readings

While Turan’s article focuses mostly on unique objects that are largely inherited and possess heirloom-like qualities, Shankar’s article focuses on consumptive behaviour of mass produced objects. They do overlap however, Both readings demonstrate that not just older, un-replicable pieces can have deep meanings of belonging and identity. For example, Turan describes the Kaffiyah (Arab head scarf now a Palestinian symbol) which as a result of 21st century resistance movement against Israeli occupation, caused them to be mass-produced. Another example is Warda Raleh’s ikea bed frame which looks just like her grandfathers. All objects within Shankar’s research are mass produced (cars, electronics and even the hip hop music that influences their desi-bling). These stories are important not only because they exemplify how the operative effects of an object are contextually bound, but also how belonging, nostalgia and the traditional notion of home are dynamic and constantly being produced.


Turan- to what extent do these objects create an emotional longing for return, or do they serve more as personalized reminders of where they perceive they came from?

Shankar- in what way does living in the Silicon valley influence their values, and in what ways do their diasporic experiences  shape them?

Objects do indeed create people

Posted: January 18, 2012 by jonathansantosdts403diasporiclivesofobjects in Jan 18


This week’s readings examined the relationship between objects and Diasporic communities. After examining the stories found within the readings, I began to realize how important objects are as they engage in uniting people across the globe. To me, the two readings, “Living in a Material World: Object Biography and Transnational Lives”, and “Material Objects As Facilitating Environments: Palestinian Diaspora” illustrate how objects unite people to a specific Diasporic group.  These two readings illustrate the narrative of Diasporic object’s and their transnational voyage. Furthermore, both readings depict how important a role objects play in creating a collective identity amongst Diasporic communities and individuals.

“Living in a Material World: Object Biography and Transnational Lives”-Karen Schamberger

The author of this reading sought out to prove how an object fashioned the life story (biography) of two Diasporic individuals. The two objects mentioned within the reading were; a traditional Latvian dress and a Vietnamese musical instrument, “Dan Tre”. The stories of both objects suggest to me that objects play a fundamental role in the shaping of all transnational lives. I am of the opinion that the author successfully argued his point. Through creating the objects both individuals, Mrs.Guna Kinne and Mr. Minh Tam Nguyen established, expressed and were able to preserve their culture and identity.  It is evident that both the dress and the musical instrument represent the experiences of these two Diasporic individuals, especially the resistance and adversity they and many others faced while immigrating. This reading conveyed the significance of objects by illustraighting the clear relation between important moments and their respective objects.

“Material objects as facilitating environments: The Palestinian Diaspora”-Zeynep Turan

The author of this reading sought out to prove how objects within the Palestinian Diasporic community signify a collective Palestinian identity. Hence the argument can be made that due to their long history of displacement, Palestinians are able to establish a sense of homeland through certain objects. After examining this reading I now know that objects represent who you are, your origins and your history. It is evident from such work that objects both serve as a reminder of the past (history) and as a tool for continuing a culture (future).

Within such work, the author interviewed four American Palestinians; Mariam Haddad, Samy Malik, Bashar Khanafi and Warda Raleh. When examining these four interviews it is evident that there is a range of different relationships with objects. For Mariam it was photos of grandparents and a cross pendant that bridged the gap between her and her Palestinian roots. For Samy, it was his Palestinian scarf that represented a country of refugee. For Bashar, it was the tattoo of the Palestinian flag on his back that reminded him of the everyday Palestinian struggle. For Warda, it was her mother’s dress, her numerous passports and the metal bed frame that reminded her of home. The author successfully argued his point as it is evident that people who are displaced surround themselves with objects that stimulate remembering home.


Within both works it is evident that objects do indeed play an important role in shaping the lives of Diasporic individuals. Both readings portray how objects shape and reflect ones experience and are also used to establish a sense of belonging and a connection to the home land. I conclude with 2 questions, (1) If displaced people do not control what happens to them do they have the power to choose what they remember? (2) What if an object that brings together a community harms, oppresses or destroys another community.  Is it still a good object?

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.

Protagonist Objects

Posted: January 16, 2012 by mitsar in Jan 18

Two readings this week, the first by Karen Schamberger (and others) ‘Living in a Material World: Object Biography and Transnational Lives’ and the second by Shalini Shankar ‘Metacosumptive Practices and the circulation of objectifications’, discuss the narrative behind objects and their relation to people living in diasporic communities. The reason I chose these two readings was because I was intrigued by the idea that an object can be a source of connectivity to a community,  culture or past not just in the traditional sense of inheriting heirlooms or passing down traditions from generation to generation. The first article does this by bringing to light the narratives of specific objects and their relation to transnational migration, while the second discusses materiality in terms of how it maintains a sense of kinship within a community, even if the material in question has no traditional significance.

The first article, ‘Living in a Material World’ discusses the concept of object biography as examining particular objects that are interwoven with the personal biography of someone who experienced the struggles and hardships of migrating to a new place. The authors of this article and the Australian Journeys Gallery Development Project exhibited over 50 objects that tell the stories of transnational migrants to Australia at the National Museum of Australia. The purpose of this project is to shed light on the value of the objects not just for their traditional purposes but also in their contribution in telling the story of migrants to Australia. In effect, it is not the object that aids the narrative of the person it belongs to, but rather it’s the person who gives the object its narrative. One example is that of Guna Kinne, who donated a dress she made, now a symbol of Latvian nationalism and part of the traditional practice of national dressmaking. The dress, which was completed at different stages throughout her life, holds a deeper meaning for Guna who brought the dress with her from Latvia to Germany to Australia. What’s more is that the dress is not simply a reproduction of Guna’s traditional culture but has characteristics that are unique to her and her experiences. The approach taken by the participants of the Australian Journeys Gallery Development project of object biography for me seemed a little obscure at first. Traditionally one would think that a national Latvian dress would be significant to Latvians only. My first thought was why the dress wouldn’t be donated to a Latvian museum, denoting the fact that this tradition of dressmaking is a testament to Guna’s loyalty to her heritage? What significance does it have to an Australian? I soon realized that the dress is part of a bigger narrative that talks about the role of transnationalism on a world-wide scale (a scale that is hard to conceptualize in many ways). We often take advantage of the fact that practically all objects, ideas and traditions are passed down from generation to generation and what I often tend to forget is that each time they are passed down, they are altered in some way that relates to the social environment of that time. The jacket of Guna’s dress, for example, is embroidered differently than her original pattern, marking it her own creation that in a sense tells her own story. It became clear to me by the end, that perhaps this seemingly strange perspective of objects isn’t all that obscure. Thinking back to objects that have been passed down in my own family, I realized that most of these things are representative of my family specifically, not just the whole of my cultural heritage.

The second article, Metaconsumptive Practices and the Circulation of Objectifications, explores the use of language and objectification as a means of maintaining community ties within a diaspora.  Shalini Shankar explores the world of the Desi community in Silicon Valley during the late 1990s and early 2000s. This tight-knit community grew in Silicon Valley throughout the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s working at local technology companies, aiding to the development of the dotcom boom. In this community the use of material culture is a marker of wealth; the purchasing of expensive cars for example is one way one can show off one’s status within the community. In fact, Shankar notes that more religious and traditional objects and heirlooms have less significance in the everyday lives of this community. Perhaps because these heirlooms are not valued the same by everyone. Expensive cars and electronics, being the same cost for everyone are a significant marker of a family’s success and the youth especially have established a dialogue through catch-phrases, photos, and videos that give value to their affiliations with one another.  Shankar’s approach in exploring the Desi community and material culture seeks to correlate a tight-knit community and the importance given to material value. Shankar shows the juxtaposition of material wealth (deemed in this case to be of Western standards) in a culture that holds tightly to traditional values and the language used to give value to that wealth. It seems to me, however, that at times she tends to underplay the value of religious and traditional and insinuates that the tightness of the community is held through material consumption and the value it denotes on a family.  She explains that this is evident by the focus to which what type of car one drives up to an event  and how while being shown videos of these events, the procession of the car is shown repeatedly, while the religious parts of the ceremony are skipped over. I’m not sure this necessarily denotes a lesser importance in tradition rather than an extension of traditional values in which material wealth are a marker of success. Tradition still plays a large part in the Desi community, as Shankar demonstrates, with arranged marriages, the importance of impressing future in-laws and the up keeping of religious ceremonies. She also notes that despite the ability to mobilize upward economically, Desi families don’t necessarily do so in order to stay close to their families and communities (i.e. don’t move out of their current neighborhoods to more expensive ones). It would seem to me that the importance of having an expensive car in Silicon Valley could be equivalent to having something as valuable back at home. Another thing I noticed was that Shankar didn’t touch on was whether the pictures, videos and narratives were ever sent “home” to families who did not immigrate to Silicon Valley. If so, do they carry the same value and awe-factor as they do in Silicon Valley?

When we think of museum pieces on display, we often think of that object as belonging to a faraway time and place that has little to no connection with our current lives. Instead we might think about the objects that perforate our lives and hold specific meaning to us and our families. Objects are not just functional apparatuses that aid us to bear the cold or transport us from one place to another, but carry proof that these apparatuses hold more than just pragmatic meanings in our lives. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that those museum objects likely once belonged to a family with its own narrative and that our own objects may one day be displayed in a museum, even perhaps an expensive car. What both readings in this case did, at least for me, was bring light to the fact that material objects are more telling of our personalities than anything else. This may seem like an obvious conclusion but it showed me how easy it is to take a discussion of this for granted and chalking it up to merely the history of our ancestors. How important is it to study objects from a perspective where the objects are the protagonists of the story and we are the secondary characters? Last year in another DTS class we discussed the way in which we view and classify World Religions and how it might skew our perception of different societies and cultures. I can’t help but wonder if these two articles don’t shed a light on a new way in perceiving things.  Lastly, if we take the approach of Shankar and her observations of the method of objectification used in the Desi community, can’t we apply this to almost all other communities, even those that are not necessarily in the diaspora? I ask this because I’m still flip-flopping between whether Shankar’s article is a testament to how strongly the Desi community has clung on to their traditions and adapted their environment to these practices or if the value given to such things as expensive cars, especially by the youth, is a sign of divergence from tradition.