The Hoarders: Material Deviance In Modern American Culture

Paperback | November 9, 2014

byScott Herring

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The verb “declutter” has not yet made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but its ever-increasing usage suggests that it’s only a matter of time. Articles containing tips and tricks on how to get organized cover magazine pages and pop up in TV programs and commercials, while clutter professionals and specialists referred to as “clutterologists” are just a phone call away. Everywhere the sentiment is the same: clutter is bad.

In The Hoarders, Scott Herring provides an in-depth examination of how modern hoarders came into being, from their onset in the late 1930s to the present day. He finds that both the idea of organization and the role of the clutterologist are deeply ingrained in our culture, and that there is a fine line between clutter and deviance in America. Herring introduces us to Jill, whose countertops are piled high with decaying food and whose cabinets are overrun with purchases, while the fly strips hanging from her ceiling are arguably more fly than strip. When Jill spots a decomposing pumpkin about to be jettisoned, she stops, seeing in the rotting, squalid vegetable a special treasure. “I’ve never seen one quite like this before,” she says, and looks to see if any seeds remain. It is from moments like these that Herring builds his questions: What counts as an acceptable material life—and who decides? Is hoarding some sort of inherent deviation of the mind, or a recent historical phenomenon grounded in changing material cultures? Herring opts for the latter, explaining that hoarders attract attention not because they are mentally ill but because they challenge normal modes of material relations. Piled high with detailed and, at times, disturbing descriptions of uncleanliness, The Hoarders delivers a sweeping and fascinating history of hoarding that will cause us all to reconsider how we view these accumulators of clutter.

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The verb “declutter” has not yet made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but its ever-increasing usage suggests that it’s only a matter of time. Articles containing tips and tricks on how to get organized cover magazine pages and pop up in TV programs and commercials, while clutter professionals and specialists referred to as “clut...

Scott Herring is associate professor in the Department of English at Indiana University. He is the author of Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism and Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History, also published by the University of Chicago Press. 

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:November 9, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022617171X

ISBN - 13:9780226171715

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
 
Introduction
1          Collyer Curiosa
2          Pathological Collectibles
3          Clutterology
4          Old Rubbish
 
Note on Method
Notes
Index
 

Editorial Reviews

“For Herring, whose sole task has been to critique the modern psychopathology of material life, this oppositional logic extends beyond the Beales. In a lyrical conclusion, he advocates on behalf of all hoarders who similarly don’t want to be fixed. Given the rigorous case that he’s mounted across The Hoarders, it’s hard to argue otherwise. One hopes that medical humanities scholars sharing Herring’s position will read and build upon his arguments, that empiricists hewing to the DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria will supplement and challenge his claims, and that hoarders will learn the history of those individuals who framed their identity.”