25
Nov
07

Shopping baskets and trollies and transient identity……

‘… a foreigner lost in a country he does not know ( a ‘passing stranger’) can feel at home there only in the anonymity of the motorways, service stations, big stores or hotel chains.  For him an oil company logo is a reassuring landmark; among the supermarket shelves he falls with relief on sanitary, household or food products validated by multinational brand names.’ Marc Auge

Looking for examples of identity within the supermarket, the shopping basket or trolley becomes our identity and also part of our contract to this specific non-place.  We fill these carriages with all our wants and needs and we may judge others by the contents they are carrying.  But this is a transient identity, it only exists for the period of time that we spend within the supermarket, once it leaves the basket or trolley and enters our cupboards, fridges and freezers it disappears.  This is a premise that Marc Auge draws attention too: 

 

‘Anthropological place is formed by individual identities, through complicities of language, local references, the unformulated rules of living know how; non-place creates the shared identity of passengers, customers or Sunday drivers.  No doubt the relative anonymity that goes with this temporary identity can be felt as a liberation, by people who, for a time, have only to keep in line, go where they are told, check their appearance.  As soon as his passport or identity card has been checked, the passenger for the next flight freed from the weight of his luggage and everyday responsibilities, rushes to the ‘duty free’ space; not so much, perhaps, in order to buy at the best prices as to experience the reality of his momentary availability, his unchallengeable position as a passenger in the process of departing.  Alone, but one of many, the user of the non-place is in contractual relations with it.  He is reminded when necessary, that the contract exists.  One element in this is the way the non-place is to be used; the ticket he has bought, the card he will have to show at the tollbooth, even the trolley he trundles round the supermarket, are all more or less clear signs of it.  The contract always relates to the individual identity of the contracting party.  

To get into the departure lounge of an airport, a ticket always inscribed with the passengers name-must first be presented at the check in desk….So the passenger accedes to his anonymity only when he has given proof of his identity; when he has countersigned (so to speak) the contract…. There will be no individualization (no right to anonymity) without identity checks’  

 

The possibility of a transient identity that only exists within the non-place is a poignant observation for my research, to what extent can it affect how we perceive ourselves and others within the non-place?  I have made an experiment that aims portray this observation and draw attention to this idea of assuming a transient identity.  

 

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