Material Culture and Kinship in Poland An Ethnography of Fur and Society
In this ethnography of Krakowian society, Siobhan Magee explores essential questions on the relationship between fur and culture in Poland. How can wearing a fur coat indicate someone's political views in Krakow, beyond their opinion on animal rights? What kinds of associations are given to someone wearing a fur coat in Poland? And what impact does generational difference have on the fur-wearing traditions of modern day Krakowians? Magee looks further into detailed analyses of conversations held relating to fur, including why fur is an apt inheritance for a grandmother to pass on to her granddaughter; what it was like trading fur on 'black markets' during socialism, and why some anti-fur activists link fur to patriarchal power and the Roman Catholic Church. In so doing, it becomes clear how fur is an evocative textile with an uncommonly rich symbolic and historical significance."Magee's research uncovers the symbolic and historic significance that fur evokes in relation to culture in Poland. In her investigations, her ethnography becomes a means for understanding generational difference in Poland. Written with reference to extensive fieldwork, Magee goes on to show how the classification of generation can be a much more accessible indicator and measure of difference than other categories, including sexuality, class and faith. Thus, 'generation' and 'inheritance' are shown to be uniquely powerful idioms with which to discuss power and social change in Poland. A new contribution to material culture and the sensory turn, this will be of interest to scholars of anthropology, ethnography, eastern Europe and material culture and textiles.
"In this rich and engaging ethnography of a peculiar type of clothing, Magee puts forward a daring claim: one needs to understand fur if one wants to understand contemporary Poland. This book will be essential reading for those interested in thinking critically about the co-production of kinship and material culture. - Magdalena Craciun, Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Bucharest, RomaniaThis book is a fascinating exploration of the many dimensions of two apparently quite distinct things, kinship and fur, and the surprising and unexpected ways that they in fact overlap, intersect and shape each other in the context of the Polish middle and upper classes in Krakow. Siobhan Magee uses fur as a lens through which to examine and probe relations between generations, particularly grandmothers and granddaughters, the economic, moral and affective significance of inheritance, and ideas about sameness, identity and difference. On another level she also maps out the complex social life of fur, and its processes of production, marketing and consumption. Beautifully written, the book is a perceptive study of middle class Polish kinship. - Frances Pine, Emerita Reader in Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UKMaterial Culture and Kinship in Poland is a brilliant exploration of Krakowian sociality and politics. In this superb ethnography of the simultaneously mundane and uncanny material of fur, Magee shows how inheritance, generational relations, style, and morality intertwine to shape the vitality of historical politics in contemporary Poland. - Jessica Robbins, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Gerontology and Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University, USA"