Unpacking IKEA: Swedish Design for the Purchasing Masses, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Unpacking IKEA

Swedish Design for the Purchasing Masses, 1st Edition

By Pauline Garvey


162 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-11-23
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This book represents the first anthropological ethnography of Ikea consumption and goes to the heart of understanding the unique and at times frantic popularity of this one iconic transnational store. Based on a year of participant observation in Stockholm’s Kungens Kurva store – the largest in the world - this book places the retailer squarely within the realm of the home-building efforts of individuals in Stockholm and to a lesser degree in Dublin. Ikea, the world’s largest retailer and one of its most interesting, is the focus of intense popular fascination internationally, yet is rarely subject to in-depth anthropological inquiry. In Unpacking Ikea, Garvey explores why Ikea is never ‘just a store’ for its customers, and questions why it is described in terms of a cultural package, as everyday and classless. Using in-depth interviews with householders over several years, this ethnographic study follows the furniture from the Ikea store outwards to probe what people actually take home with them.

Table of Contents

1. Unpacking Ikea

2. Benign Intervention: Ikea Showrooms as Tableaux-Vivant

3. Home Staging, Housing Theatre: Design, Domesticity and the People’s Home

4. Standardisation, Democracy and Equality: design for the Many People

5. Storage Solutions, Clutter and Containment

6. Still Life? Circulation, Mobility and Emotion

7. Epilogue: Design Dispersed

About the Author

Pauline Garvey is senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Maynooth University, Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland.

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General