DOLLS…What Do They DO?

Questioning Big Rankin BearWhat Do Dolls DO?

The doll users observed in (and its upcoming companion book Doll Culture in America) have harnessed the ability of objects-with-faces to extend the self. Consumer studies and material culture studies researcher Russell Belk describes this as “The idea that we make things a part of self by creating or altering them,” citing similar observations going back to the philosopher John Locke and anthropologists like Jan St. Lewinsky and Melville Herskovitz (Belk 1988, 144).

Dolls enable the extension of self “through control and mastery of an object, through creation of an object, through knowledge of an object, and . . . via proximity and habituation to an object,” such as a Bendy Figure or a Weepul sitting on his or her owner’s desk everyday (160).

WEEPUL Promotion SEIU Local 521 CABendy Man by nutmeg66 at and Doll Culture in America take a specific class of objects to analyze through Doll Studies, a field derived from collector writings, material culture studies, folkloristics, cultural studies, and literary criticism, and builds on Belk’s point that the construction of an “extended self” “suggests that possessions,” when not relied on too heavily “to provide meaning in life,” “can make a positive contribution to our identities” (Belk 1988, 160). Also, Doll Culture in America will break down how different kinds of dolls, like stuffed creatures, are utilized by different people, to achieve different expressions of identity.

Dolls from 1930s to 1960s Ireland. Penny Brite Clone, Crolly Doll, Jay of Dublin. Photo by Omnidoll.

Dolls from 1930s to 1960s Ireland. Penny Brite Clone, Crolly Doll, Jay of Dublin. Owned by an Irish American woman. Photo by Omnidoll.

Portrait Head Being Compared Against Photograph of Subject Nov. 2013. Photo Omnidoll 2013.

Portrait Head Being Compared Against Photograph of the Subject, a Close Friend of the Sculptor. Nov. 2013.          Photo Omnidoll 2013.


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