Everyday Things

This category contains 8 posts

Selling Lucky Telephone Numbers in Shanghai

  “13661588868” “I want to bring forth wealth, wealth! I want fortune, fortune, fortuuunnneeee to arise! Let fortune flow!” While going through images on my office computer, I found some photos I shot in Shanghai quite a few years ago that I should post here to share. Following up on previous posts about lucky red … Continue reading

Adjusting Floor Numbers to Avoid Bad Luck in a Chengdu Hotel

When I teach Introduction to Anthropology I often like to use simple examples to relativise taken-for-granted categories. “Common-sense” examples usually communicate these the best—so I might talk, for example, about what categories of animal constitute food or how daily life is inflected by tiny habits, rumors or superstitions. I often mention, for example, lucky numbers … Continue reading

Memories: 128 Megabytes, $125 Dollars, Circa 2002

There is something melancholy about old technology. A few days ago, while cleaning my office, I came across a small, black, USB-powered, flash drive. It wasn’t just any drive, but the first drive—the first flash drive that I ever purchased. It brought back memories of my first teaching experiences, and its memory size amazed me. … Continue reading

Ghosts in the City

This month I am finally whittling away at a few of the books in my pile. Among these is the second volume of The Practice of Everyday Life—Living and Cooking. I have been meaning to read it since visiting de Certeau’s grave back in 2012. And now that I am in the middle of it, I’m embarrassed … Continue reading

Mystery Object #13: Everyday Face Mask

The air pollution in Beijing regularly approaches apocalyptic levels many times those considered healthy by the WHO. The other day a cloud of smog so huge that it could be seen from space, blanketed the entire area. With the PM 2.5 count pushing 500, it was shocking to observe sunset conditions in the middle of … Continue reading

Good Luck With Your New Car in Shenyang

During a few days in Shenyang I noticed a number of cars that had little pieces of red cloth tied on their tires. Actually, once I noticed the pieces of cloth I started seeing them everywhere. A local acquaintance explained to me that it was a local custom to tie a piece of red cloth … Continue reading

An Apple is an Apple, Except When It’s a Sign of Satan

As an anthropology professor who regularly teaches classes dealing with material culture and issues of representation, every semester we discuss the ways that humans ascribe meanings to objects—reading them in the terms of the preexisting cultural categories they bring with them. In the context of museums Eilean Hooper-Greenhill (2000) describes these groups as “interpretive communities.” I like … Continue reading

油条: The Simplicity of Oil and Dough

I have always been impressed with the charm of the Chinese youtiao (油条). I find poetry in the simplicity of taking a strip of dough, plopping it in a wok of hot oil and frying it to a golden brown. No spices, no salt, no sugar. No fuss. Just hot oil and dough doing their thing. … Continue reading


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