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Bekänna färg: Modernitet, maskulinitet, professionalitet
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, Comparative Religion and Gender Studies.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Show Your Colours : Modernity, Masculinity, Professionalism (English)
Abstract [en]

Paint and painting are obvious components of everyday life for those of us who live in contemporary Sweden. In terms of both matter and shade, paint has come to symbolise taste and status as well as having created distinction, defined sex/gender and social position – with the past as a constant sounding board.

Paint and painting also have professional and occupational aspects. There are people – usually males – who train to become and earn their living as painters. At the same time, there are many others who are active in the professional production of paint and painting. Furthermore, there is a large amateur sector where “everyone” can paint. Taken together, these form a kind of social field characterised by both conflict and consensus: a field where competence and legitimacy, aesthetics and quality and the right to instruct and assess are questioned. These are the conditions that form the subject of this dissertation. In a wider sense the aim is to illustrate colour, paint and painting as constantly interpreted and reinterpreted material, cultural and social phenomena, with the power to shape and alter people’s circumstances and relationships. For this purpose I have come to use a variety of sources from the 20th century, such as narratives, photographs, advertisements, historical accounts and artefacts. In a more restricted sense, and against this background, the aim is to analyse the house painters’ work on a large-scale renovation project, through comprehensive fieldwork.

Being modern is not so much about managing the age in which we live and the future, as managing the past. Although the social field of painting generates a series of contradictory norms and ideals, the historical heritage represents a mutual frame of reference, irrespective of whether the tendency is to integrate, separate or reconstruct the past – different systems or knowledge with normative claims, discourses. In these processes the paint, in terms of both matter and shade, is regarded as a floating signifier, something that people struggle to define, over a period of time.

In order to study how this process works, I have made use of three analytical concepts: modernity, masculinity and professionalism. These concepts both act through and are created by what I have chosen to call material, bodily and aesthetic practices. With the help of a relational power-perspective, I have built the main chapters, focused on the renovation project, around a number of such phenomena: rhythm and movement, the material, the performative and the aesthetic, the body, sex/gender, class and pro-fessionalism, as well as the social implications of space and place. It is here that the actors in the field come into contact with each other: modern house painters, decorative painters, antiquarians, architects, paint producers, and others. It is here that insistence on the preferential right of interpretation is at risk and where an image of “the other” is conjured up.

The dissertation is concluded by the heading, In the Draught of Discourse, where the painting trade and the work itself is described as transparent and available to “everybody”. Through discourse analysis and fieldwork, it has been possible to illustrate how conditions and possibilities are not only created in the painting field itself, but also in many other sectors of society. To show your colours is to reveal sex/gender, class and nationality, to define continuity and change, the traditional and the modern, to separate amateurs and professionals, the preparative groundwork and the final result. And it is here, at the ambiguous interface that the finished surface represents, that the dissertation is concluded.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Nordiska museets förlag , 2004. , 243 p.
Nordiska museets handlingar, ISSN 0346-8585 ; 129
Keyword [en]
Modernity, masculinity/sex/gender, professionalism, paint/painters, materiality, the body, aesthetics, social field, discourse analysis, fieldwork
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-59ISBN: 91-7108-493-2OAI: diva2:195802
Public defence
2004-03-19, hörsal 4, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2004-03-02 Created: 2004-03-02Bibliographically approved

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