Material Culture

More than matter

Main question: How do objects make us feel?

Objects are ways be accompanied with feelings in memory. It is the symbol of a reminder which contains unique experience with ‘at the moment’ feelings of your senses that you could recall when you think about it, as a media. The most strongly emotions could be the relationship with another person, that come along with a whole life. I think of an example of myself which has been a print in my heart, is the taste of dumplings my grandma made. She has been passed by for years but I never forget the taste and the smelling of her dumplings. That is her speciality dish and she always did that for her granddaughters. This is the first time I begin to aware that I will never ever find that taste in my life since her gone, and the senses of her dumplings last strongly in my mind without being forced to be erased. The feeling is painful when you really what to eat something specifically but you know its no way of having it again, just like I’ve lost her forever. This is how I experience the emotion with an object, the inner connection between my mind and the real form in the world. In Ahmed’s work on happiness and affect have said that: ‘Affect is what sticks, or what sustains or preserves the connection between ideas, values, and object. … In such effective economies, emotion do things.’ (Ahmed 2010: 29)

Because of the emotion, objects have carried more than themselves, beyond the values it was born with. If we got something without any meanings, feelings or memories, we will forget it and treat it only in a profit way like disposable dishware, a throwaway chopstickes.

In this lecture, we learned that objects influence us in three aspects:

The immaterial aspect means emotions, they seems like internalized and unreflexive, but they are much more than others actually, in the culture and social context. And because of the contagious of the emotions, many things which are not objects have been materialised.  The objects also keep the promise to us, so we attache them as its spirit of following happiness. Thus ‘objects as clusters of happiness’. (Berlant 2006)

The immaterial labour is the last aspect, that contains the immaterial works such as services or knowledge, since the labour intensive work is the production of economy. In return, to wrap the goods for attracting consumers, emotions become the dress in a familiar way, and it often works. So there will be more value inside of the objects which influence mainly on people, sometimes even more over it. ‘Emotional capitalism is a culture in which emotional and economical discourses and practices mutually shape each other.’ (Illouz 2007)

When it comes to different object holds different feelings, pointing out that we, human, are always trying to relate their emotions into anything they want, like a connection between them and their outer world. Object has been given the value in human’s way, because that is the way we understand and interpret the world to show our free spirit. Maybe in a metaphysical view, our thoughts on it is more ‘real’ for the specific person, which means the object represents a symbol of his/her mind.’The making of capitalism went hand in hand with the making of an intensely specialised emotional culture’. (Illouz 2007: 4).

For my objects, it is a gift from my best friend, so it shows out the friendship and her best wishes for me to have a good luck. Its a sense of good wishes and luck, so to make this immaterial feeling into a material shape, I think a full heart will be a good choice. A Full heart always represents to be the true sincere attitude of a person, also shows the warm feeling. As the metaphor fits together that sending good wishes is also a warm, sincere matter with a promising optimism, the symbol gives the same emotion to me.




Ahmed, S (2010) The Promise of Happiness. Durham: Duke University Press.

Berlant, L (2006) ‘Cruel Optimism: Optimism and its Objects’. Differences 17 (5), 20-36.

Illouz, E (2007) Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.


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