Precarious objects, precarious life: grounded aesthetics in poverty contexts

Carla Lunghi, Maria Antonietta Trasforini

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


This article will present and discuss results from a research study on aesthetics and poverty, recently carried out in Milan (Italy). Beauty, as a quality usually connected with art objects and tied to property and wealth, has been investigated in the ‘unusual’ context of economic poverty, where ownership of objects is precarious or indeed non-existent. Using ethnographic observation and instruments of visual culture (photos), the research investigated the meanings of particular daily objects (i.e. pictures, clothes, religious images, etc.) displayed during meetings with a sample of Italian and immigrant people, living in indigent conditions. The results suggest a critical review of P. Bourdieu’s theory on aesthetics and on taste as distinction practice, focusing instead on the ethical and relational dimensions of a grounded aesthetics. As anthropology and material culture studies suggest, the aesthetic object acts in people’s lives as a polysemic item, contiguous with usefulness, rituality, relation. At the crossroads of the aesthetics of existence (Foucault) and daily practices (De Certeau), certain objects considered beautiful become containers of affection, tools for public representation of the self, personal narrative and memories, displaying a practical and emotional control of a present difficult daily life.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)37-50
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2012


  • aesthetics
  • estetica
  • poverty
  • povertà


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