Materiality of Things (Final Draft)

“Imagine how, in the hills, place is everything yet a family’s place is not where they “live” but where they “stay at” as if staying has to be marked.”

When I was very young, my family moved to a house in a suburb of New York City, a small ranch with nothing much to it, just a place of shelter to call our own and retire to bed at night. As the years passed, not only were changes and additions made, but our own memories were added to make the house more like a home because it is the little things that transform a room into your haven. It is interesting that the homeowners who had lived in this house before us viewed this place in a completely different light then I ever had before, and how something that meant absolutely nothing to us, may have meant the world to them. What was it about the additional rooms being added and the color of the siding being changed? Was it the actual appearance of the house that made it feel like a home to us or was it that it was different from the peoples home that lived there before us.

In “Mimetic Excess in an Occupied Place”, by Kathleen Stewart she observes life growing up in a very rural West Virginia area and she views life as an outsider, patching together how different forms of rhetoric emerge from her own lifestyle and area. Another one of Stewart’s works, A Space on the Side of the Road explains further into detail her experiences in anthropology and understanding the “cultural difference”. Earlier, a quote that I had pointed out stated how “in the hills, place is everything”. Yet as the excerpt progresses, we can see that an attachment to a place in the hills relies solely on social realism, which places people within opposite historical dynamics of their society in a way that “reality” is revealed as a process in concrete social experience. By matching stories together, a cultural space is created, and the practice of re-membering opens many doors to form a culture. From the explanation of social realism, one can draw a conclusion together about the progress of moving. I find a contradiction between what the author is saying in the beginning of the passage and in this particular section. I don’t agree with how forms of cultural agency emerge from the words of the predecessors. How can an aspiring artist have hope of making it big time in a city where they are being sent off with the idea that there will be nothing there to help you to achieve whatever you wish to achieve. Nothing positive can be accomplished if you are being set up for failure before you even get the chance to explore a situation on your own. You cannot interpret the snide remarks from others and take it to heart before you realize what their background could have been.

There seems to be a large crossover when deciding what aesthetic can formulate together to make something more meaningful to one person over another. I like how the author starts off by exclaiming how “every place shows signs of having been pieced together and fooled with and nothing is ever finished once and for all”. To some people, the idea of something never being completely finished can be frightening, yet I like how a destination has the opportunity to be changed instantaneously. I like the fact that an object or even a place can harness the power to be a doubly occupied place, and that the future of that place can be idealized in any way in which that person or culture perceives it in.

The term, doubly occupied place, has transformed from just an adjective-heavy word to a thought-provoking expression for a fixed state of experience. A doubly occupied place is an unwritten noun that is imagined as a series of encounters out of a world that has been put down. Stewart writes that doubly occupied spaces follow a logic of gaps and finds itself “caught in the latent force fields”, and this is what constitutes something as a “home”. At first, I could not resonate with the way Stewart was interpreting what a doubly occupied space was. Yes, it is understandable that in conditions of cultural trauma, socioeconomic collapses and exile, the negation of “home” constitutes a hold on people. Yet, as I continued to read I can sympathize with these people. In times of emigration, these people can only re-member the time of their exile due to the negative factors. It is upsetting to see that years and years of time in your “home” can be hindered by the effects of outside difficulties. The stories of these people who were sadly evicted from their homes continues into a vicious cycle. These people are understandably bitter for the right reasons, yet give the wrong idea to aspiring humans who are attempting to be driven in the right direction, as said previously.

What makes a back porch so special? Is it the idea that someone’s great grandfather built it with his own two hands? Or, is it the Easter brunches that were held on that very porch year after year? Location-based inquiry is what drives these questions and it is the insiders that will provide the most specific kind of knowledge. The owners of this place will be thrilled to tell you all about the memories and stories that surround the meaning of why that scratch on the ground is not just a scratch on the ground and why this porch is not just a porch.

Information Source: Stewart, “Mimetic Excess in an Occupied Place”; A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other” America by Kathleen Stewart found on JSTOR

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One thought on “Materiality of Things (Final Draft)

  1. Noel January 25, 2015 / 11:42 am

    LeighAnne, I really enjoyed this post. It’s clear that you spent a lot of time thinking about Kathleen Stewart’s chapter, and you’ve drawn some wonderful observations and conclusions from what is a pretty difficult text. The only correction I have for your analysis is that Stewart is not recounting her own life growing up in West Virginia; actually, she’s an anthropologist who lived in West Virginia for several years, explicitly doing research on the people living in this region, and the book is the culmination of that research. So Stewart is actually an outsider—I don’t think that necessarily changes anything about your post, but maybe it changes the way you think about the piece.

    You have some really great sentences, and I love so many of the questions that you ask. I see one opportunity for polishing your writing so that it’s smoother, and this would be at the end of the first paragraph. That last statement/question gets wordy and has a couple grammatical errors.

    As far as blog post conventions go, I like the images that you include, though if WordPress gives you the option of making them a bit larger (I can’t remember if it does, off the top of my head), they would be served well by that—especially the bird and text image later on in the post. I would also like you to use hyperlinks—seek a few opportunities to link out of your text to some sites that would complement what you are writing about. One obvious place to start is with hyperlinks to other writings on this particular chapter, to a review of the book itself, or to an interview with Kathleen Stewart that says something relevant to your piece. But get creative with Google image searches or Flickr sites that illustrate some of the places and things you mention. Use the hyperlink to heighten the materiality that you refer to in your title.

    Good work!


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