An ethnographic study of the actor-networks of novelty teapot collecting
This thesis sets out to examine collecting as a particular form of consumer behaviour by
posing the central research question: what is collecting? Using ethnographic research
methods the study explores novelty teapot collecting in the context of the first two annual
events hosted by a novelty teapot collectors' club. Actor-network theory, particularly
Michel Callon's (1986) sociology of translation provides a framework for illuminating
novelty teapot collecting by conceptualising the phenomenon in terms of a network of
heterogeneousm aterials that is continuously in process.
The sociology of translation weaves the assumptions of relational materiality and
performativity into four interrelated moments of translation comprising problematisation,
interessement, enrolment and mobilisation. Each moment provides a slightly different
lens through which to view the networks of heterogeneous materials comprising novelty
teapot collecting, allowing us to see aspects of collecting that are normally hidden in
consumer behaviour analyses of the subject.
The study is unique in that it adopts an actor-network perspective on collecting and
consumer behaviour and is therefore able to provide a processual analysis of the subject.
In so doing, it makes a number of important contributions to the consumer behaviour
literature. First, the study challenges the notion of the centred human agent that is so
prevalent within consumer behaviour, for it demonstrates both conceptually and
empirically that agency is constituted through the process of collecting. Second, it
questions the long-standing distinction between consumption and production in consumer
behaviour and provides a vocabulary for describing empirical research on collecting without recourse to such distinctions. As the thesis indicates, this approach opens up
possibilities for theorising the value of collectables. The study also contributes to the
actor-network literature by way of critical reflection on the problems encounteredin taking
a theoretical perspective derived in one field and applying it to examine another.