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The Character of Things: Materiality and Belonging in Margate, UK

Barreto Balthazar, AC; (2016) The Character of Things: Materiality and Belonging in Margate, UK. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis explores how a mobile population living in Margate, UK, who were mostly born in working-class communities across different areas of the UK and have recently retired to the town, forge a sense of belonging and connections with people, places, objects and the past in a novel historical context of national de-industrialisation, local economic regeneration and class struggle. By differentiating between objects with “character” – a native idiom to describe objects that contain in their materiality physical remnants of the past – and “modern” goods, which have been produced recently and therefore “have not lived”, my informants differentiate between continuity and rupture. In contrast to modern objects, character enables continuity. By forging connections with objects with character, my informants produce new connections with the past and a sense of belonging to Margate, despite having only recently moved there. The thesis follows associations between people, places, objects and the past produced inside the local charity shop, my informants’ homes, around public events in town and in political practices. The relevance of the ethnography of character is that it shows that although my informants are involved in consumption practices that rearrange things, people, places and the past, allowing novel identifications to emerge, this is always done while taking into consideration the materiality of objects, houses and public buildings. My informants do not simply freely construct who they are, they do so through the mediation of character. They are particularly cautious to maintain the character of places, objects and the past. As a consequence, this thesis shows that there is a (material) criterion for my informants’ social constructionism that is the “character of things”.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Character of Things: Materiality and Belonging in Margate, UK
Event: UCL
Language: English
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1508374
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