Support Live Chat
Nov 8, 2017 in Book Report
Urban Anthropology Book Review
Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary is a book written by a University College London’s anthropologist Daniel Miller and a University of Manchester’s sociologist Sophie Woodward. More interested in blue jeans as a concept rather than as an actual material object, the authors acknowledge the graciousness of average people aiming to advance contemporary material culture studies (Miller and Woodward 1).
Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary
The study presented in Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary was initiated by a 2007 publication entitled A Manifesto for the Study of Denim, which considers the challenge to anthropology represented by a topic such as global denim (ibid.) The study is based on a collection and analysis of empirical observations of how people select and wear blue jeans and what connotations they imply. The authors attempt to develop what they call ‘a theory of the ordinary’ and allocate its place in urban society. Assuming that clues to the profound may be found in things and occurrences that are seemingly mundane and routine, the authors declare that the ‘theory of the ordinary’ has major consequences for a wide range of topics, including questions of identity, equality, and immigration.
The investigation is performed in a manner of ethnographic reporting aimed at describing people from three neighboring streets in North London. The empirical evidence is provided by interviewing people of different social, gender, age, religious, and ethnic groups, and asking them to describe their life stories through jeans and their current jeans wearing practices.
Although contemporary global spread of jeans is recognized as a phenomenon that has a deep historical trajectory, the degree to which historical research can account for it is rather limited (Woodward). Furthermore, the authors argue that such obvious reasons for wearing jeans as their history or their commercial value are insufficient when accounting for today’s global domination of denim. They recognize that it is more than a form of global conformity or homogenization.
Miller and Woodward point out the existence of particular local configurations capable of explaining why people do or do not wear jeans in separate urban regions. They consider specific issues of styling, production, retailing, marketing, recycling, etc., and transcend them through the consideration of more general issues. Understanding of the material’s properties occurs in conjunction with the understanding of its social implications. For example, considering the properties of the blue color of jeans and their gradual softening or fading can contribute to the understanding of how denim becomes personalized to the shape of the wearer. Moreover, the investigation reveals that people interpret wearing blue jeans as the best means to present themselves as citizens of the world.
The authors describe that people whom they interviewed on the three North London streets ‘range from the resolutely local (born on the street itself) to those who see this as a long-term residence suited to their immigrant status. In addition, there are some passing migrants, such as young Australians, stopping here on their travels around Europe’ (Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary 12). The resolutely local families seem to retain nostalgia for earlier times of a greater friendliness of the area. Sometimes, they associate the decline of familiarity in the neighborhood with the increase in immigrant families.
However, other residents reveal reasonably sanguine attitudes towards the growing cosmopolitanism and respond positively to immigrants. Miller and Woodward note that most immigrant families in the urban area under investigation are mainly engaged in working-class occupations and focus on their children achieving a university education. There are also more transient immigrants, such as individuals from Eastern Europe looking for summer work. However, regardless of social and cultural differences, wealth, gender, and other circumstances, it is common for all people to wear blue jeans (Miller 105). Thus, the authors conclude that jeans allow individuals to inhabit ‘the ordinary’ and emphasize that becoming ordinary is important both for immigrants and the population of North London in general. ‘The art of the ordinary’ is hereby associated with the concept of becoming ‘a citizen of the world’ and social adaptation, which is especially vital for the immigrant population.
Similarly, the authors observe that every time people say they feel ‘comfortable’ wearing jeans, they primarily refer to social comfort, taking into account the anonymity and acceptance offered by jeans. The investigation reveals a certain ‘elision between the idea that the jeans go with anything and the idea that the person goes with anyone’ (Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary 100). Jeans are regarded as a ‘post-semiotic garment’ in ‘post-identity’ London—a city largely composed of immigrants and transplants, who are widely dispersed rather than clustered in tight-knit communities (Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary 92). In this context, they emphasize the liberating power of ‘the ordinary’. Thus, despite the existing abundance of various styles, colors of jeans, and commercial brands, Miller and Woodward argue that ‘post-semiotic’ jeans have escaped all other associations to indicate, and retain the single quality of being ordinary. Poole (2012) points out that the term ‘post-semiotic’ is highly controversial and incorrect and that the very concept is rather dubious. His chief argument is that every pair of jeans is marked by certain labels, such as Levi’s, M&S, Next, Primark, Wrangler, and Lee. Considering that those are all individual brands with special advertising emphases that include the corresponding connotations, it is hardly possible to find a pair of completely unbranded jeans to be regarded as ‘post-semiotic’.
Another book aimed at advancing contemporary material culture studies is Carol Delaney’s manual for anthropology students. The work is appreciated for the contemporary topical discussions among which are those on space, body, or clothing. Similar to Miller and Woodward, Delaney explores how the diverse body coverings ‘express cultural meaning and identities and serve as markers of status, age, and gender as well as occupation, activity, degree of formality, and a host of other things’ (Delaney 323). Thus, she provides a basis for further investigation of how people’s clothing choices can be tied to social and cultural identity and political economy.
Delaney also elaborates on the topic of blue jeans. She considers the historical context in which blue jeans emerged and on the basis of which they evolved to be recognized as a natural choice for all kinds of leisure activities nowadays. She emphasizes the historical circumstances in which jeans ‘became available only in 1960s during the Vietnam War and the conflict between youth and authority. In this conflict, which was also seen in terms of class conflict, the youth identified with unionized workers (who did wear blue jeans) and appropriated their clothing’ (Delaney 354). Delaney suggests that such knowledge ‘demands [to] challenge taken-for-granted ideas and structures […] and imagine that things might be otherwise’ (Delaney 406).
To sum up, such books as Delaney’s Investigating Culture and Blue Jeans by Miller and Woodward go a long way toward narrowing the gap between conventional and more relevant approaches to anthropology. These works deserve wide acclaim for the ways in which they reinvigorate ethnography and breathe new life into culture theory.
- The Review of Night by Elie Wiesel
- A Summary of Air Raid-Pearl Harbor
- Movie-Made America: Book Review
- What is Science
- Book Review of Energy Trading and Investing
Customer`s comment 23 days ago
Big thanks to your writing team for coming through for me with my last order. I didn’t give them a lot of notice, but they were able to come up with a superb paper for me. This is the kind of service that I love. Sometimes, I get forgetful, and I forget when my paper due dates are. It is so comforting to know that I can be in a rush and contact Essays-Writer.net and that you will deliver a great paper for me, no matter what. The fact that you include an anti-plagiarism report is great, too. I appreciate knowing that my work is totally original. Essays-Writer.net rocks!
Customer`s comment 27 days ago
Your writers are masters at time management. I turned in an order for four very difficult papers, and they were all written perfectly, even with the short deadline notice. Thanks, Essays-Writer.net!
Customer`s comment 4 days ago
Your writing company delivers for me every time. I have never been disappointed.
Customer`s comment 29 days ago
I was happy with the two essays that your writers did for me. Even though the subject matter was quite dense, they managed to come up with high quality work. This has been my experience with Essays-Writer.net, over the long haul. Each and every time I have needed a high quality paper, you have come through with outstanding writing examples for me. I am pleased to recommend your writing service to my friends and colleagues.
Customer`s comment 17 days ago
The work I received from your writers was much better than expected, especially considering the affordability of your services! This is so impressive! I wasn’t aware, previously, that companies like Essays-Writer.net even existed, but then again, I’m pretty sure you are the only one that is this good. I have heard a lot of bad things about other writing companies, but never a negative word about Essays-Writer.net. You are reputed as being the best, and I, for one, am convinced that this is true.Thank you for the outstanding job you did on my essay and research papers.
Customer`s comment 17 days ago
Thank you for the great paper! My professor gave me a high mark for it.
Customer`s comment 7 days ago
As always, your writers have completed another impressive paper. This time, the subject matter required a lot of research. They not only completed the research. They also documented it absolutely perfectly. It would have taken me months to write a paper this thorough and of this high quality. Thank you so much for your diligence. It was greatly appreciated.
Customer`s comment 23 days ago
I find your writing service to be staffed with serious professionals who understand the urgency of turning out great writing for your customers. I have ordered papers from you for a year and a half now, and each time, I have been given superb papers that were error free and interesting to read. I truly appreciate your efforts, and hope to continue to do business with you from this point forward. You deserve my loyalty, because you are certainly loyal to your customers! Wishing you all the best.
Customer`s comment 19 days ago
Once again, I have sat down at my computer, because I feel I owe you big thanks. There is just no way to express how grateful I am for everything you did to make my research paper as good as it was. My professor gave me an A+ on it, which is the first A+ I have received during my entire college career.
Customer`s comment 13 days ago
Now I know where to go when I need an excellent paper written on a short notice. I am very happy with the paper your writers just produced for me. It was absolutely perfect. Please thank the ones who handled my order and let them know that I will definitely do business with Essays-Writer.net again.
Customer`s comment 25 days ago
Dear Writers #0019, Thank you for taking such a good care of me. I apologize for being as picky as I was, but I was only reflecting the professor’s requirements. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got my grades back. He gave me an A+ on the paper, which is almost unheard. The paper you produced for me included each and every thing that the professor had required. He is notorious for giving us next-to-impossible tasks to perform in his class, but you managed to pull it off. I don’t know if any other student has received an A+ in this guy’s class, but he simply could not find a single thing wrong with my paper! Yay! Thanks so much.
Customer`s comment 2 days ago
My professor told me that the essay you wrote for me was the best one in the whole class! Thanks for doing such a good job. Compliments from this professor are rare!
Customer`s comment 17 days ago
Dear Essays-Writer.net, You handled my rush order beautifully. I am still amazed by the quality of the term paper, because your writers didn’t have a whole lot of time to write it. Still, they did a great job and I’m happy that I chose Essays-Writer.net. Thank you for taking care of this in such an eloquent way.
Customer`s comment 4 days ago
Dear Madam or Sir, Thank you for your competence and high standards. My paper was wonderful! I shall recommend your writing services highly. You are far and above better than other writing services that I have used. Your professionalism, attention to detail, high quality writing and great prices are a few of the reasons why I will never use any other writing service. Thanks again.
Customer`s comment 12 days ago
I am getting ready to graduate in another week, but had to take a minute to jot this line because I want you to know what a help your writing service has been to me, especially during my junior and senior years. The work has been hard, and I have had to study virtually all the time. With you helping me out with my more challenging writing projects, I have been able to move forward and do well on my tests and other school projects. I will be forever grateful to you for your help, and I wish you continued success with your fantastic writing service. All the best!