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Some of the best recent books about things, such as John Plotz’s Portable Property (2008) and Elaine Freedgood’s Ideas in Things (2006), deal with artefacts, commodities and curiosities that find their value and significance by means of circulation, moving from place to place and hand to hand. These journeys of things were the theme of the essays edited by Arjun Appadurai in his landmark collection, The Social Lives of Things (1986). The title glanced at Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism, sharing the assumption made in Capital I that things get a life by moving about and meeting other things; and that if these things have an ambition, it is to act like human beings: that is socially. The sociability of things seems to be co-extensive with the market that generated the system of exchange value; for just as the merchant’s interest is focused on the most desirable commodities — those that move the fastest and never lie upon his hands — so the commodities themselves desire nothing better than to be in perpetual motion, meeting their own kind and mutually proclaiming their importance. Even among thing-theorists operating with a very different model, the principle of sociability looms large. Bruno Latour believes that things “circulate in our hands and define our social bond by their very circulation.” -Jonathan Lamb
Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story or poem describing the life, experiences, and history of a thing.
Journaling Prompt: Write about an old artifact you received as a family legacy or found in a thrift shop. Imagine the places it’s been and the people it’s known. What can you learn from it?
Art Prompt: Social Life of Things
Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the history of a thing that has been in your family for generations.
Photo Credit: andrewrennie on Flickr
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Welcome to the Writing ReaderI believe that the most important thing about writing is to HAVE FUN! You can worry about things like commas, point of view, tenses, etc., later. Right now, just start writing!
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