Considering the Human Properties of the Non-Humans: An Analysis of Pragmatogony in Dispossession Stories

mannequin-boisHélène Cherrier, Meltem Türe, and Nil Özçaglar-Toulouse. Published in Consumer Culture Theory : Research in Consumer Behavior, vol. 16, Emerald, 99-114.

Based on Latour’s view that humans and non-humans swap properties, this paper explores whether objects embody similar properties as human beings and whether these properties per se orient dispossession practices.  The study adopts Latour’s pragmatogonies as a theoretical perspective to explore the complex interplay between humans and non-humans in the context of dispossession. Thirty-two in-depth interviews focus on the object itself (its characteristics, qualities, and capacities in association with its endo and exo relations) to understand how objects act on dispossession.

The results depict objects as consisting of various material elements and possessing symmetrical properties as humans to facilitate, hinder, and channel dispossession. Objects emerge as having genealogies, undergoing physical changes, adapting to misfortunes, and having citizenship duties. Our analyses reveal a complex network of people and things; all acting in the course of dispossession. We call for further research on object_subject networks/assemblages as dynamic and co-productive. We suggest that research focus should be on what objects might become or how they connect and evolve as they deteriorate, shift, and renew in interaction with their environment.

Our study challenges the dichotomy between material objects and human beings. We underline that objects are not ephemeral and transient but they are moving and circulating as they deteriorate, transform, enact new roles, and construct evolving identities.

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