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date: 20 March 2019

Afterword: Fings Ain't Wot they Used t' be: Thinking Through Material Thinking as Placing and Arrangement

Abstract and Keywords

This book has demonstrated how the study of material culture has come of age. From being the preserve of a few hardy souls working in disconnected island Communities — the social and economic history of consumption, ethnographies of contemporary consumption, the anthropology of goods, such as clothing and pottery, material culture studies in archaeology — it has become the stamping ground of many. The concluding article here demonstrates how the study of material culture has come of age. From being the preserve of a few hardy souls working in disconnected island communities — the social and economic history of consumption, ethnographies of contemporary consumption, the anthropology of goods, such as clothing and pottery, material culture studies in archaeology — it has become the stamping ground of many. Things have now become a key part of worlds. That was always true in the sense that the layout of things has always been a powerful pointer to a culture's propensities and dispositions.

Keywords: material, culture, island communities, archaeology, material culture, ethnography

Placing Vases: Depending on the style of the vase, set it on a Japanese table of appropriate size, using bronze in the winter or spring, porcelain for the summer and winter. Vases for the reception hall should be large; those for the studio should be small. Value bronze or ceramic, and hold gold and silver cheap, avoiding those with ring handles or which come in (p. 635) pairs. Flowers should be emaciated and curious; they should not be over‐complicated. If using a cut branch, then it must be selected to be curious and antique. If there are two then their relative heights must be suitable. It is particularly important to have no more than one or two varieties, since too many gives the appearance of a wine shop. This does not apply to a small vase with an arrangement of autumn flowers. In placing flowers do not burn incense with the windows closed, lest the smoke blight the petals. This is particularly the case with narcissi. Nor should flowers be placed on a painting table.

From Wen Zhenheng's Treatise on Superfluous Things (1620–1627), cited by Clunas (1997: 44)

Introduction

In 1762 Oliver Goldsmith (2006 [1762]) used the figure of an imaginary Chinese mandarin traveller, Lien‐chi Altangi, to parody the customs and mores of eighteenth‐century London. Prominent among the mandarin's epistolary observations was Londoners' obsession with the getting of goods (and his susceptibility to their methods of selling them). Clearly, Goldsmith was not writing with much in the way of knowledge of Chinese culture since, if he had been, he would have realized that Chinese culture was similarly preoccupied.1 Since the latter part of the Ming dynasty, consumer goods had been circulating among not just the elite but many other segments of society, often in much the same way as in the supposed heartlands of the consumer revolution like England and the Netherlands. In a masterly series of works, Clunas (1991, 1997, 2007) and Brook (1998) show that market mechanisms and networks of information were in place to allow a growth of mundane and luxury consumption that in places was on a par with that of Europe: brushes from Anhui province, ceramics from the great potteries of Jingdexhen, books compiled in many locations. Here was a proto‐consumer culture that had moved a long way beyond the bazaar.

As if to underline the main tenet of Dipesh Chakrabarty's Provincializing Europe (2000), a unitary historical time simply serves to underline Western notions of the centrality of ‘modernity’ that the historical record immediately belies. For the historical record shows that in most places at most times there is a fascination with goods, at least on the evidence of trade routes that we now realize to have been more extensive at an earlier date than had heretofore been understood (e.g. Cunliffe 2008). In other words, people have always been intent on adding use and magic to their lives by acquiring goods. In a later period in which the economic formation commonly called capitalism holds sway, diagnoses of the desire to acquire (p. 636) have been legion. Marxists like to talk of commodity fetishism. Eco‐moralists like to talk, simply and straightforwardly, of greed and waste. But there are other accounts. For example, inspired by the practice of potlatch, Bataille wanted to account for the power of excess energy through the notion of ‘general economy’, arguing that this excess energy was channelled into lavish expenditure. The lack of scarcity is a theme taken up by more recent authors too. For example, Sloterdijk (2007: 346), reverses Gehlen's emphasis on lack of means, arguing instead that we now occupy a time of excess in which waste ‘is the primary civic duty’. But the need to condemn almost always returns. Thus, Sloterdijk, along with authors, such as Zizek and Bauman, is convinced we have transited to a time in which we inhabit a public form of privacy that will drag us down into mediocrity, able to choose consumer obsessions but not much else, thus echoing the standard critique of the ultimate venality of consumerism.

But, though I would certainly not want to argue the case for unlimited expansion of the acquisition of goods, not least because of the catastrophic environmental consequences, I would want to argue for the assertion of a basic aesthetic impulse in human being that drives our love of things as much as the self‐milling mill of production: aesthetics as a biologically endowed proclivity, an evolved species characteristic. Of course, things are useful means of getting things done. But even the simplest of tools often turns out to have many ways of being produced—they are ordered to at least certain aesthetic norms, which are often abstract and abstracted. One thinks of Gell's famous paper on the fish trap: was this device a matter of art or utility? One thinks of all the forms of plaiting, binding, and knitting, and the way these lattices produce contrasting forms: ‘for example, in Baroque emblem construction as well as the wrapped funerary effigies of New Ireland in the Pacific Ocean where the body emerges from the fretwork’ (Stafford 2007: 21). And one thinks of the power of the bare line, repeated over and over again on so many goods (Ingold 2007c). People delight in looking at things, in touching things, and generally in getting to grips with them. That contact makes them feel good. Their enjoyment is real and it is not derived from some other source. It is not epiphenomenal. It follows that people want to enhance their sensory surroundings, to shape time and space by populating them with objects, whether this be in the form of the decoration of temples or the most mundane of domestic spaces. This basic aesthetic impulse—aesthetics as a behaviour—has been written about at length by many writers from different disciplines in varied ways. But one thing we do know, it is not a one‐sided relationship in which we simply project our concerns on to things. Things draw and hold us too. They become a means through which we gain not only sustenance but also comfort, whether it be from CD collections, vintage Fisher Price toys, or stamps (Miller 2008). And, in turn, we can see this quality of what might be called the craft (and sometimes it really is a craft) of generalized connoisseurship, mixed with sometimes selective, sometimes all but random (p. 637) accumulation of all kinds of goods, as an aspect of evolution just as important as other putatively critical milestones like tool‐use:

along with gaining better control of the means of subsistence by the use of material technology, humans took an additional remarkable and unprecedented evolutionary step. They gilded the lily, making sure that their technology ‘worked’ by deliberately reinforcing it with emotionally satisfying special elaborations and shaping. Thus, in the history of the human species, it is not only the development of language or the invention of technological ‘means of production’ that has made us anomalous or unique. Our invention and application of what might be called the ‘means of enhancement’ or ‘means of refinement’—for an infinity of possible objects and occasions—is equally impressive and equally deeply engrained in human nature.

Dissanayake (1993: 95)

In other words, perhaps our relationship to things has what might be called a musical quality, which we forget at our peril. Music has, of course, routinely been degraded as evolutionarily peripheral and even non‐adaptive (Pinker 1997) but it keeps stubbornly reappearing as a quality we cannot reduce to something else, including in the history of evolution (cf. Mithen 2005). Perhaps the aesthetic quality of things has the same kind of resonance, one that can be ignored but only with dire consequences for the power of our explanations. Things may not just talk to us, sometimes they sing.

Material Culture Regnant

This Handbook demonstrates how the study of material culture has come of age. From being the preserve of a few hardy souls working in disconnected island communities—the social and economic history of consumption, ethnographies of contemporary consumption, the anthropology of goods, such as clothing and pottery, material culture studies in archaeology—it has become the stamping ground of many. Why that should be is, I think, entirely understandable. To begin with, there is the sheer profusion of things in many contemporary societies. We live in the culture of Novalis' self‐milling mill where things populate the world in ways undreamt of in earlier cultures. For example, the number of passenger vehicles in the world is currently estimated at 622 million, up from 500 million in 2000 and a mere 53 million in 1950, and still climbing year on year. In turn, the profusion of such things generates its own population ecologies. Five come immediately to mind. To begin with, there is the domain of the second‐hand. And it is a vast domain, ranging from used car yards through charity shops to a considerable (p. 638) part of the economy of poorer communities. Then, there is repair and maintenance (Graham and Thrift 2007). Cars, for example, need repair and maintenance and this repair and maintenance is carried out in culturally specific ways, from the vast repair shops run by some car dealerships to the large number of small repair shops to the kind of informal operations exemplified by Australian Walpiri bush mechanics. And, this is before we get to the general practice of tinkering with objects that typifies so much human life. Then, there is waste. The spectacular sight of barges of rubbish moving up the rivers or of ships loaded with metals for recycling is but the tip of an iceberg of waste dumping and recycling, which is truly global in nature, connecting American computer users with Indian villagers, and vice versa. Finally, there is an ecology of litter to be reckoned with. Litter has become an integral part of the landscapes of many countries, populating roadside verges, blowing along the street, migrating across the oceans. It is hardly a new phenomenon. Even in 1950, the British propensity for littering was rampant: the Manchester Guardian decried ‘the accumulation of cartons and large rags of newspaper and miscellaneous wrappings, which lie about for days on end’ (R. Lee 2000). At the time, it was reckoned that about half a million bus tickets were dropped on the streets every day. The nature of the detritus may have changed but, otherwise, plus ça change.

But this is not all. Things have now become a key part of worlds. That was always true in the sense that the layout of things has always been a powerful pointer to a culture's propensities and dispositions. But what has changed is that landscapes are now fashioned by things in much more active ways. This is not some new version of commodity fetishism but rather what the Italian operaismo Marxists call ‘worlding’, a situation in which the determinate relationship between subjects and objects is replaced by a set of spatio‐temporal sequences, hybrid networks, which distribute subjects and objects in knowing ways so as to harness affective flow. In a sense, everything becomes furniture bent to this task. In the same spirit, these worlds are predicated upon producing continuous engagement with various things so that the commodity appears increasingly as a process rather than a thing that is fixed in time (Thrift 2005b, 2007; Lash and Lury 2007; Klingman 2007). Often they depend upon the granting of a good deal of freedom to the consumer in order to produce new forms of affective energy—and new products. Consider only the enormous artefactual‐cum‐affective force produced by the public intimacy of Western ‘women's culture’ in all its forms, a culture that uses commodities to fuel practices, such as giving and loving and complaining and being in pain, which is both a commercial colossus and a resource, an unfinished event that has all kinds of ‘juxtapolitical’ possibilities (Berlant 2008).

Finally, and relatedly, we have become knowing about things in unparalleled ways. The outbreak of reflexivity concerning material practices in the academic sphere, in which all manner of methods allow the erstwhile savant to knowingly observe the knowing—sometimes in ways that seem to mimic the self‐absorption to be found in so many blogs and facebook entries—is simply an echo of the (p. 639) corporate and consumer practices of ‘knowing capitalism’ in which expertise about things is sought out and incorporated into the process of commodity production (Thrift 2005b, 2007; Savage and Burrows 2007). Even archaeological methods are being transferred into the present as investigators increasingly treat material culture as the deposition of an instant (Buchli and Lucas 2001b).

No doubt it is possible to argue about the effects that the sheer profusion of things has had on us. We certainly don't need to overdramatize it. As Cohen (2006) points out, quantity of things is no guide to how they are used: contrast what to us seems like the clutter of many Victorian homes with the spare quasi‐modernist mien pursued in the homes of many consumers today, all around the globe (Jacobs and Cairns 2008). Rather, the move to prioritizing the material in material culture ‘explicitates’2 a series of processes by formalizing knowledge that was formerly informal. I will pull out just three of these processes of expli‐citation to produce the outline of a body of knowledge, which seems to me to be central to any ‘thing talk’. They are not exhaustive or exclusive but hopefully they make the point that, to use the title of the old Lionel Bart musical, ‘fings ain't wot they used t' be’.

Three Processes of Explicitation

First off, social and cultural theory is taking things into account in a way that it only did sporadically before, as many papers in this collection attest. To begin with, the idea of a divide between humans and things now looks like a relict. Things do not need to be chaperoned by human beings to have presence or force (Harman 2005). Many accounts have emphasized this point, dating from before phenomenology. But it has now become something of an orthodoxy. So, at the very least, things are counted as material prostheses to the human body, extensions that allow human beings to become more alive. One thinks of the long line of devices that have extended the representational functions of the hand, for example: stylus, brush, pen, keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, and so on, and the new languages that have arisen from their deployment such as writing and software, sometimes still replete with deictic traces. Equally, one thinks of all the devices that have extended the human capacity for movement: shoe, wheel, cart, coach, train, car, plane. Then things can have their own force, which acts back. Things come alive, prodding us into action in unforeseen ways. One thinks, for example, of the way in which stage props like the handkerchief, the skull, the fan, and the gun are gradually acknowledged as actors in their own right, able not just to haunt the imagination but do things that are pivotal to action (Sofer 2003). Or, on a more (p. 640) dramatic level, one thinks of the case of barbed wire, wonderfully elicited by Netz (2004). Netz shows how barbed wire, intended as a controlling technology meant to guarantee territory by inflicting pain on animals, allowed a massive extension of the means of violence by producing new means of territorialization premised on the ability to construct proxy landscapes in which motion could be prevented. Then, things increasingly think, in however a rudimentary fashion, increasingly blurring the boundary between live and not live, or at least producing a new psychological category (Turkle 2008). They do not think in the same way as humans, but after over 50 years of the quest for non‐biological intelligence, it is difficult to say that the increased understanding of intelligence that has followed in the wake of a sometimes quixotic attempt to build artificial intelligence has brought forth no fruit, just not the fruit that were expected (Ekbia 2008). In particular, it has produced remarkable evidence of how intelligent behaviour is consequent on the interactions between humans and machines, which do not fix the category of either human or machine. This art of effective arrangement of powers and responsibilities in functioning gestalts is, of course, at the heart of actor‐network theory and more general theories of distributed cognition. Finally, things have lives of their own. As Harman (2005) argues, there is no reason to believe that things exist just to bolster the absorption of our lives. They may have biographies but this itself is too human‐centred a description of their existence. Rather, one might say that things are a carnival which, to some extent, will always elude our senses, a world ‘packed full with objects that generate their own private lives and both welcome and resist our attempts to garner information’ (Harman 2005: 238).

Then, theory is changing its style to cope with this upwelling of interest. To begin with, it is clear that writing, especially the restricted code of alphabetic writing, is unequal to the task of portraying things by itself. In a world in which things have voice, new means of logographic representation become not just necessary but vital in order to locate the penumbra of things. Consider objects as not just marking time and space in each register of the senses but making them. That must mean making objects that precisely show this quality, which means working in many media other than print (Clarke et al. 2007). Thus, installation art often seems to provide insights missing from the material culture literature about disposition (Bishop 2005). Equally, literature is becoming replete with means of communication, which can better take the heft of things into account (Schwenger 2006). One thinks of photographs, maps, comic book formats, and all manner of other logographic possibilities. And this is before we reach the domain of the moving picture, itself an archive for considering how things work, whether in anthropological films or Hollywood movies, but now moving into new dimensions as a result of the addition of a digital domain that offers on‐line museum archives alongside collectors' forums alongside experiments in performance, which allow things to cast new shadows. The idea of simply writing about things will, I suspect, become increasingly alien: it is no surprise that disciplines that have spent so much (p. 641) time working with things—anthropology, archaeology, art and performance, geography—now seem so peculiarly fitting to the times. For they redefine the empirical in ways that have become increasingly pressing for all disciplines, moving towards both natural science and arts models simultaneously.

Then again, things are producing a politics that had been little thought of or practised before. Once things are granted symmetry as elements of gestalt networks, then it becomes interesting to think about how the art of politics needs to be defined in a non‐reductive way. This is not just a case of understanding the ways in which things (like meters) allow different modes of engagement with issues, such as sustainability and green living, important as these undoubtedly are. Rather it is about turning object‐centred practices into sites of public involvement. In turn, that allows all manner of questions to be asked. What is a democracy of hybrid networks? What gets to vote and how? Indeed, can ‘humans’ vote? How would a parliament of things be constituted? And so on.

Secondly, the fact that things inflect cultures in very different ways has become more and more explicit. It hardly needs me to document the vast explosion of work that has set out the very different use of things in different cultures and the way that this use inflects everyday life (Brewer and Trentmann 2006). This book provides ample evidence of that proposition over and over again. But there is more to it than that: the motivating principles and dilemmas and the dreams of different cultures are often constituted through the clash of things and their dispositions. Let me expand.

To begin with, think of the religious landscape of Reformation England and the force of an iconoclastic aesthetic made flesh through a very different form of visual culture, one that swept away the old visual culture of late medieval Catholicism (Duffy 1997). Think of the elaborate decoration and the complex sounds and smells that made up so much of what constituted the liturgy for ordinary people up to that time—the conventions and contents of lay prayer; the relation of orthodox religious practice and magic; the Mass and the cult of the saints; and the lay belief about death and the afterlife—all expressed through objects nostalgically recalled in the years after the destruction of so much of this way of life. Equally, think of the ascetic aesthetic of modernism and its impact on popular taste which still exists in muted form in the domestic spaces of so many people, yet alone in large‐scale architectural projects that seem unable to escape its spell. Yet this aesthetic varies from culture to culture in both its reception and practice, and in turn, these practices can travel back and forth, producing new subjectivities (Bayart 2007).

Such contemplation leads, in turn, to the general issue of how things are described in different cultures. For what seems clear is that the weight of description of things varies among different cultures in radical ways. The prose of things varies according to the means of description available and the emphasis placed on particular elements of these means. Note that I am not suggesting that all description has to pass through spoken and written language (which can, in any case, vary (p. 642) massively in its content and syntax). Description can also take place simply through the work of imposing form on materials and the ways materials resist that embrace, as authors as different as Simondon, Flusser (1999), and Stiegler have pointed out. (Indeed, so far as Stiegler is concerned, this process explains our consciousness of time.) And it can also arise out of the ways in which objects are placed in hybrid networks so as to give them more or less power and ‘objectivity’ (Daston and Galison 2007). In turn, description can undergo sea changes. Consider Wall's account of the transformation of description in eighteenth‐century England in which the rewriting of descriptions of things signals a whole new attitude to what counts as acceptable description:

experientially, to technologically new ways of seeing and appreciating objects in the ordinary world, through the popular prostheses of microscope, telescope and technical analysis; economically, to the expansion of consumer culture in the increasing presence and awareness of things on the market, in the house, in daily life; epistemologically, to the changing attitudes toward the general and particular, the universal and the individual; and, narratively, to the perception and representation of domestic space.

Wall (2006: 2)

To round the account of this second process off, it is also possible to think about how persons can be thought of as things by different cultures. Putting it this way can sound as though one is sanctioning a reduction of the human to a cipher, with all the consequences that became clear over the course of the blighted twentieth century. But there is another way to think this issue through, the kind of approach championed by authors such as Roach (2007) and Marilyn Strathern (2004a). For example, Roach shows how Western embodiment is constructed from a confusion of ‘surfaces’ (itself a problematic nomenclature), which vary historically and have all kinds of implications. Bodies are the sum of a series of surface characteristics, often summed up in a brief glance: the flash of a hat, dark glasses, and a particular bodily stance may be what we see and how we come to judgement. This makes these living effigies' clothes and accessories, hairstyle3 and the skin, and all manner of other characteristics that occupy the boundaries of the body, into powerful supplemental but still telling cultural signposts, which have the look and feel of things: props that are themselves performances. Thus Roach shows how modern charismatic celebrity is often simply an aggregation of these surfaces, a kind of living/not‐living brand. But the point is more general than the name, the face, and the scandal of celebrity. These surfaces vary enormously among cultures and it might be better to treat them as things, rather than falling back on standard humanist motifs.

Thirdly, and relatedly, there is the continuing explicitation of things as existing in many registers at once as well as the processes that become possible because of this both simple and complex fact. To begin with, and most simply, we can think of things as communicating not just in the visual register but across every sense (understanding that the senses are themselves cultural‐biological amalgams). Thus, (p. 643) as Smith (2007) and many others have pointed out, we communicate with things in many registers at once, an insight that is only heightened by the advent of ‘intelligent’ materials that can respond much more subtly to users (Küchler 2008), materials that are able to feel personalized and personalize feel, whether these be surfaces, sounds, smells, or what have you: each individual can exist in an increasingly modulated environment. But this is surely a subset of a larger development that I have already referred to as worlding, the production of environments (or atmospheres as Sloterdijk would have it) that can catch and modulate affect. I wrote earlier of the musical side of things, which is wrapped up with their ability to trap or generate affect through a certain extravagance that we are biologically constituted to respond to. Producers now play to these moods by constructing carefully designed climatizations that perform object desires. One thinks of modern malls and shops as the primary instruments of object desires, carefully edited spaces within which attention can be focused on things through the medium of things by playing to minor affects, such as envy, and major affects, such as love, using increasingly sophisticated knowledges of the spatial disposition of things. But that is but a small part of the affective grip of things. Think only of the immense emotional investments now made in the home as a space for depositing goods. Recent industry‐oriented books on the home act as primers for amplifying passions: home is literally where the heart is. Homes, and the things that constitute them, are about addressing basic emotional needs.4 Bathing, for example, becomes a key sensuous moment, akin to that found in the true bathing cultures of the world: the Turkish bath, the Japanese onsen, the Scandinavian sauna. And bathing is a good metaphor for what is being aimed at.

To bolster this statement and to understand the general aim of this process more fully, let me move to another kind of bathing experience, that provided by the garden. Chandra Mukerji (this volume, Chapter 24) takes as her example gardens that have an iconic status, those gardens with explicit messages to impart. But such gardens are few and far between, even the most formal of them. Only a few landscape gardens and almost no domestic gardens5 contain truly iconographic programmes and ‘even those are frequently meant to be evocative or polysemic rather than programmatic’ (Elkins 2008: 70). Rather, gardens' effects are ambiguous and largely semiconscious, based on a different kind of grip that oft times resists the illusion of an observing subject: ‘the object isn't bound by our attention: it binds us’ (Elkins 2008: 69). To put it another way: ‘If I step into a bath I am going to warm up: and perhaps gardens have that kind of control over our responses. On the other hand, it might be better to say that the reverie of gardens is only an inducement to a kind of thought that is often dormant in our professional prose’ (Elkins 2008: 71). The mention of the semiconscious refers us immediately to the work of writers, such as Gabriel Tarde, whose geography of mimetics has, as I have argued elsewhere, more significance than it has often been given credit for. Spaces are increasingly designed as trails of statements laid out in the form of dispositions of things, rather like a (p. 644) form of music, making statements that we feel and respond to through long and involved chains of semiconscious mimesis, which constantly echo back and forth. This diagramming of emotions through the medium of things is now moving from being an art to becoming a science.

Conclusions

Let me end where I began—with China. It is a truism that China has been passing through a moment of binge consumerism. What sometimes looks like a middle class orgy of brands and a general consumer boosterism seems to be going on apace, one which to listen to most commentators has been invented anew by consumer naifs. But look deeper, and we can see something much more interesting. First, and most obviously, the history of China shows an alternative timeline in which the early invention of printing, minutely modularized production, and sophisticated consumer knowledges produced an early consumer sensibility among a part of the population: the primer of Wen Zhenheng could have come from the pages of House and Garden. Secondly, it is quite clear that the Chinese have forged their own consumer sensibility, as the work of Davis, Schein, and others shows only too well, one that engages with what we might stereotypically call a Western formation of desire but only in the broadest and most nuanced sense (see Rofel 2007). Thirdly, and most importantly, the per(re)ception of goods still carries elements of an older tradition of thinking about materiality, which is becoming better and better known—through a general interest in Eastern philosophy, through Heidegger's appropriation of Eastern thinking, and through the uncanny echoes between certain Eastern and Western traditions of thought, as found in writers as diverse as Leibniz, Whitehead, and Latour. In particular, there is the absence of clarity and distinctiveness in Chinese thinking about the empirical. In contrast to many other traditions, Chinese thinking is—absolutely, if you like—relational, intent on pursuing a logic of influence through ‘the eternal silence of processes’ (Jullien 2007: 151) without the massive investments and reinvestments in meaning typical of the Western tradition. When Roland Barthes arrived back from China, he argued that he had found a society with no signs but what he was actually witnessing was a cultural emphasis on the potential, the virtual, the in‐between, and on process generally that can be realized in a great number of ways, in a great range of concrete objects (Jullien 2000, 2007a, 2007b). It seems to me that it is towards this vision of a kind of nourishment of and by things as they unfold in time that we are now all heading, each in our own ways: a transformation of description that takes up a model of something like music, one might even say.

Notes:

(1.) Goldsmith does mention the shops of Pekin and Chinese governance in a way that shows he had more than just a passing knowledge of China. At the time, the general appetite for things Chinese, for Chinoiserie, objects made in China specifically for the European market, for things that mimicked Chinese style, such as chairs and clocks, and for books such as Olfert Dapper's Atlas Chinensis (1671) (a style bible full of elaborate observations by an author who, nonetheless, had never been to China) must have sensitized him to that country's culture (see Markley 2006).

(2.) I take the term from the work of Peter Sloterdijk.

(3.) I have tried to show the enormous reach of consumer industries, such as hairstyling, in modern economies in Thrift (2008).

(4.) Equally, we could dip further into the vast edifice of women's culture: a circulation of dreams and things that has been brought into existence since the nineteenth century (Berlant, 2008).

(5.) Incidentally, gardens have become one of the great consumer industries on a world‐wide scale (see Lees 2002).