Dancing Objects. Aesthetics in action in poverty contexts

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The paper will present and discuss some results from a research on aesthetics and poverty, recently carried out in Milano (Italy). The beauty, as quality usually connected to art objects and tied to property and wealth, has been inquired in a context of economic poverty, where property of objects is precarious or indeed non existent. Using ethnography observation and instruments of visual culture, the research investigated the role, the characteristics, the meanings of some particular objects displayed during the encounters with a sample of Italian and immigrant people, living in indigent conditions. All that daily objects (i.e. pictures, religious images, clothes etc..) that the interviewees defined as `beautiful' were photographed while the interviewees became themselves photographers in a second part of the interview. As anthropology of art suggests, the ‘aesthetic object’ turned out to be a polysemic item, contiguous to usefulness, rituality, relation, while the progress from the self to transitional object has increased a narrative freedom to account for a personal or family history. This aesthetics in action seems indeed to function as unusual autobiographical tool. So, even in a context of poverty, some objects seem to carry out the complex role of public representation of self, a narrative role of biographic document and genealogic continuity (with family or with the culture of origin in the case of immigrants), to display a practical and emotional control of a present difficult daily life.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteESA Research Network Sociology of Culture Midterm Conference: "Culture & the Making of Worlds" (Archive)
Numero di pagine8
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2010
EventoRN Sociology of Culture, Midterm Conference "Culture and the making of worlds" - Milano Università Bocconi
Durata: 7 ott 20109 ott 2010


ConvegnoRN Sociology of Culture, Midterm Conference "Culture and the making of worlds"
CittàMilano Università Bocconi


  • objects
  • poverty


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