MA Thesis

“We Live in a Used World:” Cultural Geographies of American Garage Sales (click on title for full thesis)


This thesis seeks to understand the emotional geographies of American garage sales, which I argue are liminal. Through a methodology of narrative surveys (open-ended questionnaires), mental maps, participant-observation, and interviews, I make the case that garage sales, through absent and/or present items, narratives, and exchanged histories, can reveal much in terms of identity, values, and cultural practices. These archives on the margins hold stories, artifacts, and performances of a distant or near past, giving geographers an innovative lens through which to explore the intricacies of materiality, place, and representation. This thesis provides a range of theoretical and practical perspectives on how geographers conceptualize and utilize the archive; I expand on their understandings to include garage sales— ephemeral sites that inhabit a space not quite purposefully preserved and not yet necessarily in decay. Through questioning conventional understandings of the traditional archive, space for an alternative archive—including everydayness, the revelation of cultural and historical clues via consumed, retained, and divested ‘things’, access, context, performance, and narrative—becomes possible.

Word Cloud by Christopher Peters

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