Contemporary Consumption Rituals: A Research Anthology

By Cele C. Otnes; Tina M. Lowrey | Go to book overview

11
Ritual Desire and Ritual Development:
An Examination of Family Heirlooms in
Contemporary North American Households
Carolyn Folkman Curasi
Georgia State University
Eric J. A mould and Linda L. Price
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

I hope this will become a family tradition. The ring is the only object I will pass down. I never bought anything or received any other thing that is important enough to me to pass down to my family…. I want the ring to start becoming a family heirloom, and to be passed on to generations. When it's passed down, I want my daughter to tell her daughter, Amanda, the story behind it. (Mrs. Thompson, Female, age 72)

This investigation examines rituals associated with heirlooms in contemporary North American society. In particular, we draw attention to consumers' longing for ritual. Woven through our interview data, we are struck by the presence of an affective state that might be described as a desire or longing for ritual, as illustrated in the opening quote and as echoed by other informants. This desire for ritual seems to reflect a tacit understanding of ritual's role in broadcasting, enacting, and commemorating important family values. This affective state translates into a desire for ritual action often played out in individual middle-class families in North America through the development and ritualized use of family heirlooms.

We also draw attention to consumers' desire to both create and to sustain family heirloom rituals. Families compose ritualized activity as bricolage, a French term, that literally translates as “puttering, ” or “do-it yourself, ” and was introduced by Levi-Strauss to describe the compositional tactics found in traditional mythology. The behavioral latitude that ritual development can absorb struck us as we studied family heirlooms and informal disposition rituals in contemporary Ameri-

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