Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of Peoples' Lives
In this innovative study, six women and men from Eastern Indonesia
narrate their own lives by talking about their
possessions--domestic objects used to construct a coherent identity
through a process of identification and
"self-historicizing." Janet Hoskins explores how things
are given biographical significance and entangled in sexual
politics, expressed in dualistic metaphors where the familiar
distinctions between person and object and female and male are
drawn in unfamiliar ways. "Biographical Objects" is an
ethnography of persons which takes the form of a study of things,
showing how the object is not only a metaphor for the self but a
pivot for reflexivity and introspection, a tool for autobiographic
elaboration, a way of knowing oneself through things.
[T]he book's heart really lies in the vicissitudes of personal experience, and the ethnographer's relationships with certain individuals. In this respect, the book properly takes its place among other recent works that center on the particularities of experience. Here the author's long fieldwork in Kodi serves her well.
Janet Hoskins is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange (1993), winner of the 1996 Benda prize in Southeast Asian studies.