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Object Biographies

An object biography is a story told through an object. The term biography literally means the writing of a life, a life told as a story. Usually, a biography is meant to describe a person's life, but a thing can speak volumes about its makers and possessors, its various uses, its inherent qualities. Object biographies can thus provide key material and symbolic indicators that illuminate the values and beliefs of consumer culture.

Igor Kopytoff argued that just as the commoditization of persons could have a biographical trajectory, so too could objects be viewed biographically as having “careers.” He used enslavement as an example of the process of turning a person into a commodity but one in which the slave could take on a new identity, even ...

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