Accepted Paper:

Moving with character: old objects and social mobility in contemporary UK  


Ana Carolina Balthazar (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the particularity of old objects with “character” in allowing for and encouraging social identity change while maintaining a sense of continuity with the past in the context of class mobility in Margate, UK.

Paper long abstract:

This paper addresses the potential of old objects with "character", a native idiom, to enable British informants who benefited from decades of upward mobility in the UK to adjust their working-class memories to contemporary conditions where working-class identities were suppressed from public debate. Old clothes and bric-a-brac enable my informants to move from a working-class register of belonging to a national one, which will then be expressed in politics. This is possible due to the very materiality of such objects, which combine the remnants of multiple temporal registers. In connecting to such objects, my informants may produce narratives and forge connections and a sense of belonging to either a working class village or a British industrial era. In such a context, memories that were once associated with a working-class identity will now help to forge a British identity. It is the fact that objects convene in their materiality multiple identities that allow for my informants to change while maintaining a sense of coherence. The particularity of objects with character, in relation to other objects, is their ability to allow for and encourage change in social identity while maintaining continuity with the past. The paper presents objects as not only relevant to build fences and bridges (Douglas and Isherwood 1979), but also to point towards new paths (cf. Keane 2006), inform social transformation and enable the construction of new political identities.

Panel P102
The power of mobile materialities: human movement, objects and the worlds they create [ANTHROMOB]