Book Series

Material Vernaculars

Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds - edited by Jason Baird Jackson

The role of objects and images in everyday life are illuminated incisively in Material Vernaculars, which combines historical, ethnographic, and object-based methods across a diverse range of material and visual cultural forms. The contributors to this volume offer revealing insights into the significance of such practices as scrapbooking, folk art produced by the elderly, the wedding coat in Osage ceremonial exchanges, temporary huts built during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, and Kiowa women's traditional roles in raiding and warfare. While emphasizing local vernacular culture, the contributors point to the ways that culture is put to social ends within larger social networks and within the stream of history. While attending to the material world, these case studies explicate the manner in which the tangible and intangible, the material and the meaningful, are constantly entwined and co-constituted.

Folk Art and Aging

Life-Story Objects and Their Makers - Jon Kay

Growing old doesn’t have to be seen as an eventual failure but rather as an important developmental stage of creativity. Offering an absorbing and fresh perspective on aging and crafts, Jon Kay explores how elders choose to tap into their creative and personal potential through making life-story objects. Carving, painting, and rug hooking not only help seniors to cope with the ailments of aging and loneliness but also to achieve greater satisfaction with their lives. Whether revived from childhood memories or inspired by their capacity to connect to others, meaningful memory projects serve as a lens for focusing on, remaking, and sharing the long-ago. These activities often help elders productively fill the hours after they have raised their children, retired from their jobs, and/or lost a loved one. These individuals forge new identities for themselves that do not erase their earlier lives but build on them and new lives that include sharing scenes and stories from their memories.

Framing Sukkot

Tradition and Transformation in Jewish Vernacular Architecture - Gabrielle Anna Berlinger

The sukkah, the symbolic ritual home built during the annual Jewish holiday of Sukkot, commemorates the temporary structures that sheltered the Israelites as they journeyed across the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Despite the simple Biblical prescription for its design, the remarkable variety of creative expression in the construction, decoration, and use of the sukkah, in both times of peace and national upheaval, reveals the cultural traditions, political convictions, philosophical ideals, and individual aspirations that the sukkah communicates for its builders and users today. In this ethnography of contemporary Sukkot observance, Gabrielle Anna Berlinger examines the powerful role of ritual and vernacular architecture in the formation of self and society in three sharply contrasting Jewish communities: Bloomington, Indiana; South Tel Aviv, Israel; and Brooklyn, New York. Through vivid description and in-depth interviews, she demonstrates how constructing and decorating sukkah and performing the weeklong holiday’s rituals of hospitality provide unique circumstances for creative expression, social interaction, and political struggle. Through an exploration of the intersections between the rituals of Sukkot and contemporary issues, such as the global Occupy movement, Berlinger finds that the sukkah becomes a tangible expression of the need for housing and economic justice, as well as a symbol of the longing for home.