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“Look at Us Now!”: Scrapbooking, Regimes of Value, and the Risks of (Auto)Ethnography

Danille Elise Christensen
The Journal of American Folklore
Vol. 124, No. 493 (Summer 2011), pp. 175-210
DOI: 10.5406/jamerfolk.124.493.0175
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Page Count: 36
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“Look at Us Now!”: Scrapbooking, Regimes
of Value, and the Risks of (Auto)Ethnography
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By the early 2000s, scrapbook construction in the United States had shifted from a relatively private mode of assemblage into a visible practice bolstered by robust marketing and public venues for creation and display. But today’s scrapbooks often also perform the value of activities long characterized as ephemeral, mundane, and private by recasting them—using archival-safe products and visual documentation—as durable, artistic, and public. In effect, these books perform everyday lives. Arbiters of culture have questioned the authenticity or aesthetic merit of these exhibits in moves that deflect attention from the risks that attend any form of cultural documentation, including their own. Because scrapbooking makes visible the estrangement and objectification that occur when experience is entextualized, this popular hobby prompts reflections about ethnographic practice, the risks of performance, and the regulation of cultural hierarchies more generally.

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