In this innovative study, six women and men from Eastern Indonesia narrate their own lives by talking about their possessions--domestic objects used to construct a coherent identity through a process of identification and "self-historicizing." Janet Hoskins explores how things are given biographical significance and entangled in sexual politics, expressed in dualistic metaphors where the familiar distinctions between person and object and female and male are drawn in unfamiliar ways. Biographical Objects is an ethnography of persons which takes the form of a study of things, showing how the object is not only a metaphor for the self but a pivot for reflexivity and introspection, a tool for autobiographic elaboration, a way of knowing oneself through things.
Janet Hoskins is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange (1993), winner of the 1996 Benda prize in Southeast Asian studies.