5/27 Hanna Pickwell

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

A flavor of human feeling: Affectivities of outmoded things in Beijing

Time: Friday, May 27, 3-5pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: 

https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYudeCprjgvGdGzQCXOlcZrX9JBu625WTKP

Abstract: Old furniture, toys, décor, and electronics no longer have a use or fit the aesthetic regime of today’s Beijing, and yet my interlocutors – senior citizens in Beijing’s old city – are not planning to dispose of them. These old everyday things, between possession and junk, accumulate in physically liminal spaces around their people’s homes – in corners, stairwells, and courtyards and evoke ambiguous feelings. Aging residents of one Beijing neighborhood have donated many such objects to a community center, where things that were once adjacent to junk became a collection that is essential to the center’s warm atmosphere and has wide appeal beyond the neighborhood. This chapter takes up the question: to what extent, and in what ways, did the materiality of the GLR and its collection shape the sociality that unfolded there? It argues that material things and spaces act as durable loci, anchors for the for the accretion of experiences and traces that can be activated through memory and imagination and experienced as atmosphere or, the emic term, “flavor.”

Presenter: Hanna Pickwell is a PhD candidate in the anthropology department at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation research focuses on the social efficacies and regimes of value of used commodities in China.

Discussant: Lilian Kong is a PhD student at the University of Chicago, enrolled in the East Asian Literature and Civilizations + Cinema and Media Studies joint program. She studies contemporary Chinese film and media, with research experience in healing media, media atmospheres, media ecology, and global vernacular. 

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