There to be used: Material vitality, care and the ongoingness of second-hand objects

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Speaker : Anna Bohlin (University of Gothenburg)

Title: There to be used: Material vitality, care and the ongoingness of second-hand objects


This presentation will draw from a publication-in-process, “The liveliness of Ordinary Objects: Living with stuff in the Anthropocene,” In (R. Harrison & C. Sterling, eds) Deterritorialising the Future: Heritage in, of and for the Anthropocene, London: Open Humanities Press (forthcoming august 2020). It is based on anthropological fieldwork in Swedish homes and second-hand markets, and shows how domestic items that have been acquired second-hand invite specific forms of usage, and engender embodied and affective responses that differ from those involved in two other common classes of objects that have received much scholarly attention: newly produced commodities, on the one hand, and conventional heritage objects, on the other. Occupying a loosely defined phase in between these object positions. second-hand items are interesting in the way that they induce particular responses to their obvious “ongoingness”—their material fragility, change and impermanence. The presentation will discuss how recent debates within critical heritage studies can help us unpack abstract and all-encompassing categories such as “consumption” and “consumer goods” and pay attention to the fine-grained, situated and temporally unfolding human-thing entanglements that they involve, asking: what is the role of material transformation and decay in such entanglements, and under what circumstances is material liveliness tolerated, or even valorized? When might oldness be preferred over newness, and what might this mean for a post-anthropocentric ethics of expanded responsibility that includes care for nonhuman things and processes?


Anna Bohlin is Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has previously researched issues of memory and temporality in relation to place, in particular in connection with various state projects such as democratization (South Africa) or river restoration (Sweden). Current research interests include people’s relations to everyday domestic items; waste; and second-hand and reuse as embodied and alternative forms of heritage. She is part of the leadership group of the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies (University of Gothenburg/University College London) and the Research Cluster Making Global Heritage Futures, where she explores the intersection between things/materials, temporality and sustainability, previously within the project Re:heritage. Circulation and Marketization of Things with History, Swedish Research Council 2014-2019, and currently within new the project Staying (with) Things: Alternatives to Circular Living and Consuming, Swedish Research Council 2020-2024.

  • When ?

Friday the 6 March 2020 from 2:00 pm till 4:00 pm

  • Where ?

ULB - Campus du Solbosch

Institut de Sociologie (building S)

Room Doucy - 12th floor - Room 123

44 avenue Jeanne - 1050 Bruxelles