Date of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Beth E. Notar, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jane Nadel-Klein, Ph.D.



My thesis presents evidence that auctions are innately socially- constructed places where diverse actors and unique objects are brought together in a transformative theatre of commerce. Commodities offered can carry with them elements of social turmoil and expose intimacies when exchanged. In this culturally-constructed, social-economic landscape, animate participants in the social arena of an auction parallel the inanimate commodities to be exchanged, as commodities are also “thoroughly socialized thing[s]” with biographies and social implications of their own (Appadurai 1986, 6). Patterns of on-again, off-again commoditization of certain goods are part and parcel of the social construction of their complex biographies, and details can symbolize “a successful social career” that might rival their owner’s (Kopytoff 1986, 66). Consider that if these objects could talk, their agency would alter.

For years I have subscribed to antiques-related trade publications and have attended auctions as an amateur. To learn more about this compelling exchange, I talked with an acquaintance who lives and breathes antique; he made me realize that these commodities also live and breathe, so to speak. From that point, I blended reading with attending previews and auctions in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, where salerooms and commodities ranged from classic to generic and where the ownership of goods is transferred and their histories are transmuted.

Keywords: auction, bid, commodity, exchange, lot, market, provenance, singularization


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College, Hartford Connecticut for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.