The Mirror’s Reflections and Refractions

Rebecca M. Empson

in Harnessing Fortune

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264737
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753992 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

The Mirror’s Reflections and Refractions

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This chapter examines the role of the mirror, which is placed at the centre of the display, to reveal an exemplary kind of person made from each of the parts that constitute the household chest. Drawing on recent work in artefact-oriented research, these visible and hidden components of the household chest appear as inter-dependent perspectives that index different concepts of the person. They reveal that relations based on affinity, separation, rupture, and difference are the necessary, yet invisible, background that supports the visibly foregrounded relations based on shared bone, containment, and sameness. When viewed together, through the mirror that stands at the centre of the display, we see that a person is made from each of them. Far from being a mere psychological reaction to external stimuli, here vision of oneself through the mirror becomes the ‘tool’ through which an exemplary kind of personhood is revealed.

Keywords: mirrors; household chest; artefacts; personhood; relations

Chapter.  9573 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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