Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Monica Udvardy


In the estate sale, actors (shoppers and estate sale workers) form notions ofpersonhood and pollution through objects such as half-used bottles of perfume, floral dishes, and family photographs. Actors use these objects to create the gender, personality, religion, hobbies, and occupation of the objects' former owners. The context of the estate sale contributes to these notions of personhood. Estate sales usually occur after a death, almost everything this person has owned is priced for sale, and the estate sale is held within the house of the deceased.This study draws on Mary Douglas' work on pollution as "matter out of place." In the estate sale, pollution takes on various forms (in association with death and illness, the body, the identity of their previous owner, and physical dirt) and degrees, which affect how "out of place" an object is, as well as how actors react to this object. These four forms of pollution are then linked back to the objects' previous owner due to actors' perceived lack of anonymity of this person. Suggestions are made as to how these forms of pollution extend and refine Douglas' continuum of purity and pollution, and how they link to notions of gendered personhood.

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