Hanna Pickwell

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9839

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Pickwell, Hanna (Chicago, U. of) "Secondhand Fetishes: Positive and Negative Enchantments of Things in Urban China"

HANNA PICKWELL, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in April 2019 to aid research on ‘Secondhand Fetishes: Positive and Negative Enchantments of Things in Urban China,’ supervised by Dr. Julie Chu. Retitled ‘Retro Enchantments and Secondhand Ghosts: The Lively Afterlives of Old and Used Everyday Things in Beijing,’ this project examines the complex relationships between people, material culture, and values that have emerged in the wake of modern China’s dramatic economic, social, and material transformations. It focuses in particular on old and outmoded, everyday material things such as household objects, including the regimes of value that surround them; the ways in which they mediate the interlocutors’ relationships with the past and participate in the production of various kinds of personhood and community in the present; how they exceed human intentionality (by instigating sometimes uncontrollable consumption, sparking fears of haunting, generating atmosphere, or impacting the environment); and how these fit into broader figurations of commodities, consumption, aesthetics, and ethics under ‘market socialism.’ To explore these questions, in-person ethnographic research was conducted at sites including secondhand markets, vintage shops, and non-commercial collections of old and used things, as well as online research of social media, e-commerce websites, and television shows. In addition to traditional ethnographic modalities such as participant observation and interviews, the research also draws on methods from multi-sensory and visual anthropology, and ultimately aims to contribute to anthropological literatures on aesthetics, affect, materiality, and value.