The quote below is from something a read a while ago. It is the opening sentence of a paragraph, that has been floating around n my head for months. I have never quite found a moment to refer to it.
‘The idea of objects having a social life is a conceit I (Appadurai) coined in 1986 in a collection of essays titled The Social Life of Things. Since then, I (Appadurai) has have continued to be engaged with the idea that persons and things are not radically distinct categories, and that the transactions that surround things are invested with the properties of social relations. Thus, today’s gift is tomorrow’s commodity. Yesterday’s commodity is tomorrow’s found art object. Today’s art object is tomorrow’s junk. And yesterday’s junk is tomorrow’s heirloom.’
There are some things you read that for some reason capture your imagination. Perhaps they are well phrased or present an unexpected line of argument. I have not read very much of Appandurai’s work but I liked this idea of ‘things’ having a social life – dependent on the social transactions they are caught up in. I like the idea of the social life of which they are part having the capacity to transform them.
I connect this to the idea of written notes scribbled in the margins of what you are reading. These tiny little thought pieces – or perhaps conversations between you and the writer of a text – can be transformed into a paragraph and illustrated. They are of enormous value. Not only do they plot the development of your ideas from doctoral candidate to post-doctoral researcher – they represent your personal engagement with a text. They may well be junk (if treated as such), but junk if carefully collated might well of more value then you realise. More importantly, they have a name.