chapter  5
22 Pages

Methods: Mass-Observation

Fuller accounts of the subjects we expose to scrutiny, or just some more detail of the people whose practices we study, would deepen our understanding of the ways in which material cultures are shared or specific. There are distinctions and similarities between a British and a Scandinavian home or between a British and a North American wedding. Greater attention to studied constituencies would allow us to see the meanings held in common or how material culture might be used to defend difference. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the methods and sources employed in the study of domesticity and domestic material culture in order to make some assessment of the academic field to which this book, The Wedding Present belongs. I discuss a selection of studies of domestic material culture whose conclusions have in some way shaped this book but whose methods to a greater or lesser extent are quite different from my own. Thus this chapter nudges my book towards a conclusion. I also, importantly, reflect upon my method and sources. Although there is always a tendency to justify or even defend work that you have spent years doing, I hope to open up to question my practices of collection and interpretation of accounts of the materiality of everyday domestic life and thereby

4 Peter Lunt and Sonia Livingstone, Mass Consumption and Personal Identity (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1992) p. 4.