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Liv genom tingen: Människor, föremål och extrema situationer
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Ethnology.
2009 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Things that matter : Objects and People in Extreme Situations (English)
Abstract [en]

Material culture has several meanings and has played a significant role in ethnological research. Humans are surrounded by objects, many of which are so commonplace that they are barely noticeable. Others are charged with emotions and stories that account for something important. In this study of the materiality of life crises, the focus is on the relation between humans and objects. The aim is to show how simple things can be vital for people trying to find coherence and meaning in life. The focus is on what objects meant for those forced to flee from Nazism and for those who lost relatives in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001.

This is a comparative study of two catastrophic situations in which people were faced with issues of life and death. It is also an examination of objects that help people to adjust to life again after flight and survival. The dissertation’s different section headings, Movement, Loss, Pain and Re-creation, allude to how people orientate themselves. With inspiration from the classical theory of rites of passage, the perspective is expanded to include positional changes and movements in a more general sense. In a catastrophe people are wrenched from life as they know it and in the next phase find themselves on a journey, in transit or in transition between what they have left behind and a security as yet to be created. It is in this in-between or liminal phase that the individual is most vulnerable – nothing is as it was and what is to come is shrouded in mystery. The latter phase, integration, means that the search or journey is complete and that the individual has found balance in life and, with that, their place in the world.

The passage from one phase to another either happens quickly or imperceptibly slowly, without warning. I have described people who have been plummeted into a hurricane-like chaos, in which life is turned upside down and is no longer safe and secure. Even though the hurricane has brought devastation and people have been physically and psychologically battered about, they have nevertheless found their feet and tried to synchronize the past with the present. As the state between then and now – the in-between state – is painful and trying, transitional and linking objects become all the more important in strivings to re-find one’s place in the world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm/Stehag: Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion , 2009. , 155 p.
Etnolore, ISSN 0280-9559 ; 33
, Archives of the Nobel Museum, ISSN 1404-7586 ; 12
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-99538ISBN: 978-91-7139-831-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-99538DiVA: diva2:209873
Public defence
2009-05-14, Sal X, Universitetshuset, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-04-22 Created: 2009-03-16 Last updated: 2009-04-22Bibliographically approved

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