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Property and Cultural Possession Term Paper


It is impossible to predict a global understanding of regular purchasing in the absence of first of all understanding the interpretation that consumers connect to possession. A means to comprehending what possessions mean is appreciating that intentionally or unintentionally, we consider our possessions as component of ourselves (Belk 1988 pg: 143). This means that we are what we have and own. This is possibly the most fundamental and influential reality of consumer behavior. As stated by William James (1890);

a man’s Self is the Sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands, and yacht and bank-account. All these things give him the same emotions. If they wax and prosper, he feels triumphant; if they dwindle and die away, he feels cast down, -not necessarily in the same degree for each thing, but in much the same way for all. (291-292)

In his observation, James specifies that there is in addition a non-material self but substantially component of who we are is tranquil of the things we possess. The reason for this paper is to assess the interconnectedness between possessions and our sense of whom we are. Overdependence on ownership for self definition might be exhibited on how we purchase, how we mind for the things we attain, and the measure to which we adhere to our material ownership instead of discarding them (Etzioni 1991).

A primary notion connecting the extended self to obsessive purchasing is that of self-indulgence (Kleine, Susan & Kernan 1993). Greed has been described as the significance a shopper attaches to worldly ownership (Kleine, Susan & Kernan 1993 pg: 223). At the highest pick of such self-indulgence, such material ownership presumes a central position in an individual life and is considered to give the greatest resource of contentment (Belk 1982) To the highly materialistic individuals, purchasing of consumer products provide the possibility for paranormal revolution of self.

The notion that we make products a component of self by producing or altering them seems to be a global human belief (Sartre 1943/1969). Etzioni (1991) gives a more psychological clarification in proposing that we spend psychic energy in a product to which we have channeled our toil, moment and concentration. This energy/effort and its output are considered as part of the self since they have developed or surfaced from the self. Buying product gives another way for investing self in material ownership (Etzioni 1991).

Property Possession

How material objects come to be possessed is a vital puzzle for any individual thinking about property. One purchases things from an owner but the question is how that owner got the property. Any chain of possession or title ought to have a first connection. A number of thinkers (Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995 pg: 337) suggested a theory of the source of ownership. In regard to this theory, the first owner got title through the approval of the rest of human kind (Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995).

The shortcoming of this theory is that it entails what the contemporary law and economic would describe as administrative costs (Etzioni 1991). The question of how everyone got together to consent the division of the property among arise from this theory. The other theory of property ownership is the standard bourgeoisies’ theory (Mann 1991). In this theory according to Mann (213), the first owner mixes his or her own labor with a product hence establishing ownership of that thing. This theory is appealing since it seems to rest on the desert.

One major problem of this theory is that without a preceding ownership theory (Pierce, Kastova & Dirks 2003), it is not self evident that somebody possess even the labour which is mixed with something. Secondly, if one does possess the toil, the labor theory gives no direction in shaping the range of the right that are established by mixing toil with something else. For example, if someone pours a bottle of juice into the ocean where the pouring action is the labor that is mixed with something else (ocean), is if this action gives such an individual the right to own the ocean (Mann 1991).

The other theory of property possession is the general law which shares some attributes with the toil and consent approaches (Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995) but have some distinction warranting a diverse labeling. According to this theory, possession/ownership is the basis of property (Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995).

This however raises the significant question on what counts as possession. Exploration of answers to such queries leads to some basic analysis regarding the nature and rationale of a property command. Possession thus means a clear action whereby there is worldwide understanding that the actor has an unambiguous purpose of appropriating the property to his personal utilization (Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995).

Researchers in the field of anthropology have for some period been keen in culture as being an object over which a community has rights and also an interest in what it may mean to have ownership of culture(Oslen 2003 pg: 15). In the perspective of liberal, multicultural nations like the settler nations of Australia, US, Canada and Newzealand, matters of cultural identity and integration have resulted to a similar but individual politics of culture epitomized by challenges over the right to stand for or speak on behalf of cultural identities instead of one’s own (Oslen 2003).

Nature and Meaning of possessions

The importance of material things to people has been of great attention to consumer behavior scholars from the time when psychological presumptions/theories of development were utilized to establish how people connected meaning to material things. As Mann observed (1991) ownerships/possessions are multifaceted and that ownership of material objects derives it’s meaning from the society they are utilized.

This makes utilization and control of material things the principal attributes of possessions. There is a demonstration by scholars that material ownerships are connected with meaning by those who possess them and thus shaping their identities (Belk 1982) Here, meaning is defined as a collection of constituents that include experiences, icons and sentiments as well as information (Brown 1998 pg: 204).

Meaning can be inherent in the material thing itself or in the mentality of the user. A good number of the material things obtain their meaning through connection with explicit utilize and frameworks (Brown 1998). Meaning can also be defined as an insight or understanding of a material thing, developed a social-psychological pattern for how persons assign meanings to contextualized material things that clinches symbolic delineation (Kleine,Susan & Kernan 1993)

The connection linking material objects and persons is usually outshined by the notion of property that cannot be alienated from the fundamental connection linking being and having (Sartre 1943/1969), a connection that contends the significance of commodities for self definition. In situation where a calamity may have destroyed the properties that the owner had vested with important interpretations, sufferers may repudiate to make comparable sentimental reinvestments in their fresh procurement (Sartre 1943/1969).

It is expected that such individual will place a lesser importance in products they will acquire as emblems of self than they had with the previous individual possession objects will be less significant to sufferers as emblems of self than they were before the disaster (Etzioni 1991). Out of need, the disaster individuals becomes exposed to acquisitiveness since the key focus of their post disaster lives is to reconstruct and repurchase for themselves and their families (Belk 1982). Self gift is one way of repurchasing and is usually circumstance bound. In this scenario, the circumstance for purchasing is re-buying reluctantly disposed commodities (Etzioni 1991).

Self gifts can be as a result of frustrations, despair and being in possession of additional money (McCracken 1986). As a result of the psychological re-orientation caused by physical dislocation and loss and by the feeling of immediacy, we anticipate the sufferer to move toward re-buying with a dissimilar outlook than if they had not experienced the calamity (Etzioni 1991). There is also anticipation of fancy purchasing and gifting playing a function in purchasing performance among calamity sufferers. Individuals are probable to recompense themselves for surviving the sentimental disturbance of calamity with purchasing performance that is untypical of the preceding buying occasions.

Identity and Self Definition

Away from the fundamental need for a sense of control, individuals are strongly driven by our sense of identity, of who they are (Mann 1991 pg: 220). The ‘I’ concept signifies the value that is placed on people’s sense of individual self. A great deal of social theories is to do with constructing or maintaining people’s sense of identity (Kleine, Susan & Kernan 1993). Self identity sense emerges early in life as a child starts to disconnect themselves from an undifferentiated harmony with the mother (Kleine, Susan & Kernan 1993).

An image of the child in the mirror can provide the unexpected surprise of recognizing that they are different beings. A young child can naturally stick to one teddy bear under which he establishes his own identity that is he is not his teddy bear. When this teddy bear is removed at some point, part of the child identity is lost resulting to stress and tears. These patterns carry on through individuals’ life as they identify with their possessions and the objects around them and feel terrible when such possessions or objects are changed or lost (Kleine, Susan & Allen 340)

The notion that we consider possessions as continuation of ourselves has been well established by research indicating that the connection created by an attachment to a material thing by its owner is a significant foundation of identity. Mann has defined material things for self identity as being secular meaning emblems of achievement and sacred meaning representative of earlier period and individual memoirs with association links and utility objects (Mann 1991). The building and maintenance of self definition depends profoundly on an individual’s utilize and possession of emblems of comprehensiveness that can be physical units that hint to others one’s self definitional accomplishment.

When material possessions are gone, the query of what turn out to be for the self concept might be of significant concern to scholars of consumer behavior. Consumer research entailing the building or rebuilding of identity proposes that consumer behavior is influential in the development. For instance, as observed by Kleine, susan & Kernan (1993) people coming from loss subsequent of divorce places importance on gaining that represent preferred or upcoming identities. In the nonexistence of property, calamity survivors are obliged to substitute their possession based identities with association, principles and action based self definition.

After the calamity, the survivors become the ‘have nots’ and are obliged to look for other ways of personal identity in anticipation of developing capabilities to repurchase and rebuild what was gone (Sartre 1943/1969). Since such individuals (survivors) have no existing point of reference for determining self definition, buying have no connection to the circumstance and are done devoid of background pressures. And since the individuals lack the usual background as a basis for buying, then they are expected to instigate alteration through buying of objects unassociated to their precedent identities. The nature and technique of post calamity buying will proof transformation or divergence in the way of life of the calamity victims (Sartre 1943/1969)

Cultural Heritage as Property

There are a number of indisputable properties that give rise to the concept of culture being a form of property. These properties include meaning, practices and material objects that are explicit to, or linked with, a given group and over which particular group members emphasize privileged claims to. These unquestionable properties might be ritual practices of particular cultural interpretations (Brown 1998). There can be object with a given significance for producing or preserving identities of cultural groups. Local groups assist in shaping specific ideas of cultural property according to their cultural histories. More and more cultural groups are restarting and asserting possession of their cultural identities and emblems through property (Brown 1998)

Sooner or later, certain commodities become irreplaceable through possession rite such as utilizing, displaying and storing among other that haul out interpretation from and provide interpretation to the products (McCraken 1986). A young child becomes fond of a certain object such a baby blanket over several repeated utilization. Adult possession might become polluted via regular or habitual utilize and reliance. For example, a constantly worn wristwatch or jewelry bequeathing it with personal interpretation linking self and object (Belk 1988 pg: 144).

The necessity of a personal narration between individual and possession is one of the toughest thematic areas in the exceptional possession literature. Nevertheless, the interesting probability of self extension has been proposed by Kamptner (1995) results. In their research of object possession fondness, teenager and youthful respondents articulated self identification with well-built interest but not yet obtained commodities. The emotions exhibited appeared to be that; had i had it, it would be me(Kleine, Susan & Kernan 1993).

Fondness to possession is many-sided and moderately intricate perception. Belk (1988( depicts the extended self including fondness as being constituted of varying stratus from the individual inner self core to the outmost combined strata. Unique objects a possession together with possession fondness varies in their representative rationale and identify diverse enthusiasm for fondness, suggesting multifaceted person possession tie.

Working with a social psychologists’ peculiarity between the public- interpersonal and the private- intra-person sides of the self, claims that possessions mainly functional for cognitively practicing fundamentals of their self feature will be fondness. Kleine, Kleine, and Allen (1995) described fondness to have features of affiliation, independence, and history, current and expectations temporal point of references. Each self is linked with varying types of possession fondness that mirror particular self developmental responsibilities.

The notion that culture may be treated as possessions is primarily a derivative of a relativistic and idealistic conception of way of life as circumscribed units to comprehend exclusively on their own stipulation. Nonetheless, the notion ties to human rights issues with a more global self proclaimed approach regarding people particularly indigenous people who have no geo-political boundaries to guard themselves, as permitted to certain measures to guard their culture against being used or misused by those outside the group. Hence, the culture as property concept links ethnic identity to the politics of minority empowerment (Gover 2004 pg:214).

As it has been indicated by a number of scholars (Brown 1998 pg: 196) the matter of cultural property rights encompasses a variety of issues and predicaments. As observed from vantage point of aboriginal community, the concern has both ethical and a permissible feature and both look into the broader issue of relative power (Oslen 2003).

On one hand, there is a set of people claiming to be permitted to regain its way of life on the ground of a set of overarching and worldwide approved ethical values of justice and reverence. On the other hand and often more powerful is the state or global firm which has the mechanism to come to a decision according to its own principles and supposition, whether to recognize or discard such claims. Majority of anthropologists currently recognize the essential legality of indigenous claims to have cultural objects for instance ‘human remains’ and ‘ritual paraphernalia’ sent back home (Etzioni 1991and Brown 196).

As observed by Brown (1998), the upcoming conceptualization of cultural information comprises the following postulations: a racial people who can be said to have continuing, wide-ranging civil liberties to its own cultural constructions and thoughts. These comprise the right to implement complete control over the symbol of such constructions and a thought by non-members including the latter’s private autobiography, drawing, imaginary productions; a group’s connection to its cultural creations comprises a type of possession (Brown 1998, Kamptner 1995 and Sartre 1943/1969).

This possession may be factual meaning based on some wide-ranging description of cultural or intellectual property or symbolic, mirroring widespread appreciation that in ethical conditions a group ‘possesses’ the ideas and practices that it cleave to dearly; and cultural information in line with racial minorities that was assembled in the ancient times by anthropologists, missionaries, government officials, filmmakers, and novel writers is by description so polluted by the actuality of colonial control that it cannot reach the current’s principles of conversant sanction. This information may hence be put aside or be put under stern access limits when and if its subjects consider its existence in the open domain unpleasant (Brown 1998 194-5).

Such development is evidenced by UNESCO (MaCracken 1986 pg: 74) but leaves us with description dilemmas, for instance what should be comprehended by custom, legends and cultural tradition among others. The dilemmas are connected to an aboriginal call for identification of their culture each time matters of cultural misuse by outside institutions and persons take place (Belk 1988 and Govers 2004). This approach is specifically comprehendible in matters where aboriginal objects and data are misused or duplicated for profit-making purposes.

Even though the concern of communal rights brings about lawful dilemmas in a jurisdictional area that is made to serve the personal or commercial benefit of the contemporary consumerist world, in such circumstances there is a justifiable claim for some form of possession or patent (Brown 1990. There is certainly the additional dilemma of storing the so called traditional knowledge unworkable of that welfare that may desire to make an earning from it in various ways by making it accessible for publicity and utilization in ways far from the traditional ways. In the sphere of postmodern time, the inventive utilization of religious emblems and ritual practices gotten from aboriginal cultures by the current practitioners is one of the eye-catching examples (Oslen 2003).

Products as Cultural properties

People build up feelings of individual possession of a wide range of things/objects, material and immaterial in nature. This state is known as psychological ownership. As documented by Etzioni, possession is a double development, part outlook, part object, part thought and part factual (Etzioni 1991 pg: 466). There are concepts of ownership as part of the extended identity (Etzioni 1991). Mann observed that what one owns feels like a part of that person (Mann 1991). On the other hand, Sartre in his exposition on “being nothingness”, observed that ‘to have’ including ‘to do’ and ‘to be’ is one of the three grouping of human existence and that the completeness of ownerships mirrors the completeness of being meaning I am what I possess- what is mine is me (Sartre 1943/1969 pg: 591-592).

While possession is normally experienced as concerning person and object connections, it can also be experienced in relation to nonphysical bodies for instance, thoughts, terminology, imaginative creations, and other people (McCracken 1986 pg: 82). For instance, feelings of possession among children in relation to nursery rhymes and songs- that were theirs in a situation where they were the first to hear them and nobody is allowed to sing or listen to them without their permission.

Psychological ownership provides the answer to the query; ‘what do I sense is my ownership’ and its intangible core is a feeling of possession towards a given goal for instance the products of a person’s toil, a toy, home, parcel of land among other. Psychological possession mirrors an association between a person and an object either material or immaterial in form in which the object is experienced as having a close relation with the identity (Oslen 2003 Pierce Kostovo & Dirks 2003 pg: 101).

The circumstance of psychological possession is a situation, of which one is conscious through intellectual opinion (Belk 1982 pg: 72). It mirrors a person’s consciousness, reflections, and attitudes concerning the target of possession (Belk 1982 pg: 72, Brown 1998 and Belk 1978). This cognitive status nevertheless is attached with a poignant or affective feeling. Sensation of possessing is said to be a satisfaction generating occurrence (Pierce, Kostova & Dirks 2003). Permissible possession is appreciated first by society and thus the rights that accompany possession are identified and preserved by the legal framework(Mann 1991).

In disparity, psychological possession is appreciated first of all by the person who holds this sensation. As a result, it is the person who shows the sensed rights linked with psychological possession. In addition, psychological possession can continue living in the absence of legal possession. Noticeably, individuals can own objects legitimately and never assert the ownership as their own (Govers 2004). It’s by no means appears to be possessed by them. Under this circumstance the person merely fails to assert the object as his/hers since they do not locate own meaning in the object’s representative attributes, a vital prerequisite for the experience and asserting something as theirs.

As observed by Pierce, Kostova & Dirks (89), there are three contentment that are resultant of possession which include: – being in command over space, personalization of freedom as a claiming of identity, and inspiration (attained for example through thinking about, utilizing, enhancing, or protecting one’s ownership/boundary. It has been debated also that ownership assist in creation of a ‘place’ representatively incarcerated by the notion of ‘home’ and its capability to avail to the person with a background in which to inhabit, a sense of intuitive ease, satisfaction and protection (Pierce, Kostova & Dirks, 2003)

Psychological possession reflects a cherished association or a psychological immediacy of the possessor to the possessed. Purchasing a material thing/object was merely another type of generating an object as it too sprang from the fruit of a person’s toil (Gover 2004 pg: 175). Hence, that which springs from an individual toil, be it their labor or doohickey that they make, just as their terminologies, opinions, and sentiments are symbols of identity (Govers 2004 and Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995).

The most apparent and possibly the most influential way by which a person devotes himself/herself into a material thing is to produce it. Producing entails devoting time, vigor, in addition to a person’s principles and identity. Material things are attached to the individual who produced them because they are his/her product, they draw their existence and type from his/her labors, thus, the person who has produced them possess them in much the same way as he/she possess himself/herself(Kamptner 1995)

Psychological possession is incredibly firmly associated to the notion of self and the notion of self sequentially, is in part collectively stipulated and influenced by culture (Pierce, Kastovo & Dirks 98 and Kleine, Susan & Allen 1995). Psychological possession is partially acquired through socialization practices which are also determined by culture (Mann1991).

This then means that culture is a significant prerequisite that requires to be scrutinized to better comprehend the phenomenon of psychological possession. Mirrored in tradition, custom, norm, and way of thinking in a society, culture models the person’s self perception and principles in consideration of being in command, self identity, self look, possession, and property (Sartre 1943/1969, Oslen 2003 and kleine, Susan & Kernan 1993 pg: 337).

Factors Influencing Product Attachment

Past scholar work suggest that consumers become fond of certain goods/products since they express an individual and exceptional implication over and above the commodities utilitarian interpretation (Belk 1982). Four factors have been distinguished that affects product fondness. These are self expression (can an individual be distinguished from the rest through product attachment?), group affiliation (is the possession of the product attach an individual to a group?), memoirs (attached to the product), and satisfaction (pleasure given by the product) (Kamptner 1995 pg: 311; Kleine, Kleine, and Allen 1995).

Even though these features are pertinent for motivating the experience of fondness to a product, they vary in the extent to which designers can manipulate them through product design (Etzioni 1991 and Belk pg: 155). Consequently, focus is emphasized on the issue of self expression since this feature gives designers the best chance to inspire the magnitude of product fondness. Particularly, product personality and product personalization are explored as a possible way of influencing the feature self expression and eventually influence the experience of product fondness.


The material ownership integrated in comprehensive self serve important role for healthy personalities (Mann 219). One such role is performing as a purpose demonstration of self, an external symbol of our internal configurations. Such ownership are good for thinking since they assist us in manipulating our probabilities and present the self to others in a means that is capable of garnering comment from those who are unenthusiastic to react so explicitly to the unpredicted self (Mann 221 & Kleine, Susan & Allen 329 ).

The possession in our comprehensive self in addition provides us an individual archive that permits us to reflect on our past and see how we have transformed. Through heirlooms, the kin is competent in constructing a comparable collection and permit individual kin members to achieve a sense of durability (McCracken 74) and a position in the globe that extend beyond their own lives and accomplishments.

Works Cited

Belk, Russel. “Possessions and the Extended Self.” Journal of Consumer Research 15(2) (1988): 139-168.

Belk, Russel. ” Assessing the Effects of Visible Consumption on Impression Formation.” Journal of Advances in Consumer Research 5 ((1978):39-47.

Belk, Russel. ” Acquisitiveness and Possessiveness: Criticisms and Issues.” Convention of the American Psychological Association (1982): pp70-73.

Brown, Michael. “Can Culture be Copyrighted?” Current Anthropology 39 (1998) (2): 193-222.

Etzioni, Amitai. The Socio-economics of Property. In F. W. Rudmin (Ed.), To have possessions: a handbook on ownership and property. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 6 ((1991) (6): 465–468.

Govers, Pascalle. Product Personality. Delft: Delft University of Technology, 2004.

James, William. The Principles of Psychology. New York: Holt, 1890.

Kamptner, Laura. “Treasured Possessions and Their Meanings in Adolescent Males and Females,” Adolescence, 30(1995) (118): 301-318.

Kleine, Robert, Susan Schultz Kleine and Jerome Kernan. “Mundane Consumption and the Self: A Social Identity Perspective,” Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2(1993) (3): 209-35.

Kleine, Susan, Robert, Kleine, and Chris, Allen. “How Is a Possession “Me” Or “Not Me”? Characterizing Types and an Antecedent of Material Possession Attachment,” Journal of Consumer Research, 22 (1995): 327-343.

Mann, David. “Ownership: A Pathography of the Self.” British Journal of Medical Psychology 64 (1991): 211-223.

McCracken, Grant. “Culture and Consumption: A Theoretical Account of the Structure and Movement of the Cultural Meaning of Consumer Goods.” Journal of Consumer Research 13 (1986): 71-84.

Oslen , Kjell. The Touristic Construction of the Emblematic Sami, Acta Borealia 20 (2003) (1): 3-20.

Pierce, Jeffrey, Kostova, Tanya, & Dirks, Kathleen.The State of Psychological Ownership: Integrating and Extending a Century of Research.” Review of General Psychology 7(2003) (1): 84-107.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology. New York: Philosophical Library/London: Methuen, 1943/1969.

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