New Domestic Rituals: Note on Design Anthropology

New Domestic Rituals: Note on Design Anthropology

Pietro Meloni (University of Siena, Italy)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0666-9.ch004


The paper focuses on the relationship between design and anthropology and investigates the way in which social actors shape their domestic life and spaces through objectivation and resignification, using designed objects to convey a meaning to their everyday experience. Firstly, the paper discusses the role of domestic rituals and artifacts, providing specific examples and materials directly concerned with ethnographic research in domesticity (Miller, Appadurai, Gunn, etc.) so as to highlight the anthropological contribution in design studies. Following the first survey, the text presents some results of a field research in Italy (Siena, Venice), conducted with the aim of analyzing the effects of beliefs and practices on design and the function and value of contemporary objects in domestic rituals.
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Home Studies: An Anthropological Perspective

In anthropology, great importance has been given to studies on the home over the last decades. There are several classic studies on these themes, from Henry Lewis Morgan on the native American home (1881), to Pierre Bourdieu’s crucial studies on the Kabyle house (1972) and taste (1984). Such contributions have inspired the most important studies on the home, as Heather A. Horst says:

Bourdieu’s formulation of the habitus and social practice in shaping taste and aesthetics in French homes and Moore’s analysis of the ways in which gender is structured and restructured in domestic space through practice represent seminal work on the ways which gender and other forms of difference become inscribed and reinscribed in domestic space (Horst, 2012, p. 61).

Nevertheless, it is only in the last ten years that the home has become a constant matter of ethnographic interest and concern for anthropologists. This attention comes essentially from material culture and consumption studies and, in some cases, from semiotic studies and from the Annales School. These studies are mainly based on two different schools of thought: French and Anglo-Saxon. The former focuses on symbolic aspects and material culture (Bourdieu, 1979; Dassié, 2009; Paggi, 2015), and on the transfer of objects (Bonnin, Perrot, 1989; Segalen, Bekus, 1990). These studies have been strongly influenced by the anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan (1965), by the Annales School (Braudel, 1979) and by Jean Baudrillard’s (1968) semiotic approach to objects.

Céline Rosselin, for instance, studied the organization and the evolution of the hall:

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