In this fascinating work, Louise Purbrick offers an alternative analysis of contemporary domestic consumption. She investigates the ritualized presentation of objects upon marriage, and their subsequent cycles of exchange within the domestic sphere. Focusing on gift-giving in Britain from 1945 to the present, comparative context is provided by material from North America and Europe. Presenting new material on the enactment of exchange relationships within everyday domesticity, the book makes significant historical, theoretical and methodological contributions to the analysis of contemporary consumption. It also re-evaluates consumption theory as well as examining the methodology of recent studies in consumption and domesticity, pressing for a more rigorous approach to the use of case studies. By considering how the specific contexts in which consumption occurs, such as married domesticity, can limit possible versions of selfhood, The Wedding Present tests the assumption that consuming creates individual identities. Thus, the book argues, consumption cannot be isolated as an explanation of individual or social formation.
'By deftly weaving together anthropological, historical and materialist perspectives, The Wedding Present is itself a gift to a new interdisciplinary marriage. It is beautifully written, sympathetic, and critically astute. Louise Purbrick has given us a wonderful, moving and important book.' Ben Highmore, University of the West of England, UK 'Meticulously researched and richly detailed, this book offers unique and original insight into the consumption of everyday objects and designs in the British home. Incorporating especially commissioned primary research from the Mass Observation Archive regarding the gifting practices around marriage, The Wedding Present makes a key multi-disciplinary contribution to the history and anthropology of material culture.' Alison Clarke, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria 'I warmly recommend this book to anthropologists interested in contemporary material culture, for its novel materials collected in a systematic way and especially for its diachronic dimension.' The Australian Journal of Anthropology '…The Wedding Present interrupts, pleasantly and substantively, our thinking about consumption and asks that we consider anew our assumptions of consumers and things.' Journal of Design History 'Louise Purbrick has undertaken an informative study in material culture of wedding gift giving and receiving among Britons from 1945-2003… Purbrick does a fine job of mining written responses to assess self-described "ordinary people's" (14) experiences and interpretations of marital gifts and gift exchanges. Purbrick's extensive use if respondents first-person voices lends authenticity to her account of the wedding gift exchange as a complex social, contextual, and personal reality.' INTAMS
Contents: Introduction making homes and worlds: marriage and consumption from 1945 to today; Objects of approval; China and Pyrex: the practices of preservation; Accounting for change: forgotten, neglected and altered objects; The list: domesticity, conformity and class; Methods: mass-observation; Afterword: unmarried households; Bibliography; Appendices; Index.