Bandlien, Charlotte Bik (2004) "Producing Scarcity – An Investigation of the Retro Market", thesis submitted to the Department of Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo, in partial fulfillment of the cand.polit degree (174 pages)

Summary:
This thesis is concerned with social construction of value embedded in material objects through an investigation of the retro market; an exclusive second-hand market in 20th century designer furniture. Based on fieldwork conducted in London; one of several urban locations in which this market is to be found, I propose that the retro market is of anthropological interest as an entry to boundary constructions and distinction making, conversions of value, transactions which challenge the duality between the gift and the commodity , and not least to production of symbolic value. Relevant theoretical perspectives range from studies of material culture, symbolic theory, and economic anthropology; effectively combined in consumption studies. The retro market is analysed as a register of consumption; as luxury , an approach which reflects the characteristics of the consumption rather than classifies the material objects in question. Choosing the commodity context; the retro shop, as the point of departure invited a consideration of several parties; retailers, customers, and stylists from interior magazines, and I argue that they are all of significance to the construction of symbolic value embedded in retro furniture. This symbolic value is related to claims to aesthetic authority and a negation of a perceived mainstream . Further, I argue that the symbolic value also rests on being in fashion , however, being in fashion simultaneously challenges it. To serve the function as distinction markers, retro cannot be for everybody , and the emic term something special captures the essence of retro value. I suggest that the process of constructing and regulating distinction value is one of producing scarcity, and the aim of this thesis is to portray the social mechanisms at play.

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