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Materializing Difference


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Translocal Communities of Practice and Multi-Sited Ethnographies

Part I. Negotiating and Materializing Difference and Belonging
1. Symbolic Arenas and Trophies of the Politics of Difference
2. The Gabors’ Prestige Economy: A Translocal, Ethnicized, Informal, and Gendered Consumer Subculture
3. From Antiques to Prestige Objects: De- and Re-contextualizing Commodities from the European Antiques Market
4. Creating Symbolic and Material Patina
5. The Politics of Brokerage: Bazaar-Style Trade and Risk Management
6. Political Face-Work and Transcultural Bricolage/Hybridity: Prestige Objects in Political Discourse

Part II. Contesting Consumer Subcultures: Interethnic Trade, Fake Authenticity, and Classification Struggles
7. Gabor Roma, Cărhar Roma, and the European Antiques Market: Contesting Consumer Subcultures
8. Interethnic Trade of Prestige Objects
9. Constructing, Commodifying, and Consuming Fake Authenticity
10. The Politics of Consumption: Classification Struggles, Moral Criticism, and Stereotyping

Part III. Multi-Sited Commodity Ethnographies
11. Things-In-Motion: Methodological Fetishism, Multi-Sitedness, and the Biographical Method
12. Prestige Objects, Marriage Politics, and the Manipulation of Nominal Authenticity: The Biography of a Beaker, 2000-2007
13. Proprietary Contest, Business Ethics, and Conflict Management: The Biography of a Roofed Tankard, 1992-2012

Conclusion: The Post-Socialist Consumer Revolution and the Shifting Meanings of Prestige Goods

About the Author

Péter Berta is an Honorary Research Associate at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, a Visiting Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London, and a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Ethnology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.


"Nuanced, critical and sophisticated in its analysis, Materializing Difference is an exceptional ethnography. Through its fine-grained examination of the entangled trajectories of people and things, it shows how prestige goods are agentive in the social, political and economic lives of the Gabor Roma, and may be said to bring their identity as a distinct community into being." - Paul Basu, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS, University of London

"Materializing Difference offers a refreshingly delightful, exciting, and informative reading experience for academics across the social sciences and humanities. Anyone who feasts on the calibre of expert storytelling that accompanies the valuation of those objects ('things') introduced on the Antiques Roadshow will devour this fascinating book. Péter Berta's quest is to plumb the complexities of the acquisitions and trade of prestige objects in order to tell his story of their mysteries: why they exist and how their existence has contributed to the social and cultural life of those Roma groups intimately engaged in their changing valuations, ownerships, and transfers." - David J. Nemeth, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toledo

"I am pleased to recommend Péter Berta's Materializing Difference to both scholars of Roma and of material culture. After following his work for several years, I am glad to read this rich and mature analysis of prestige objects among the Gabor Roma of Transylvania, based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork. Berta elegantly analyzes the symbolic and ethnic value of these objects in a mobile network that illuminates current post-socialist issues of consumption, patina, and exchange." - Carol Silverman, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

"Péter Berta's Materializing Difference is a fascinating and theoretically rich ethnography of the life of antique silver beakers and tankards among a group of Roma in Romania. By tracing the meanings, provenance, and value of these objects among families in this ethnic group as well as across boundaries with various other groups, he shows the distinct meaning systems that define Gabor Roma identity and family face. By showing the interplay between the lives of objects and people, Berta also reveals the extent to which the two are entangled with one another." - Russell W. Belk, Schulich School of Business, York University

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