Dissertation Abstracts

Scrapworthy Lives: A Cognitive Sociological Analysis of a Modern Narrative Form

Author: Medley-Rath, Stephanie R, stephaniemedleyrath@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Georgia State University, USA
Supervisor: Ralph LaRossa
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Scrapbook , Cognitive Sociology , Narrative , Autobiography
Areas of Research: Biography and Society , Leisure , Visual Sociology


Over the past 20 years, scrapbooking has become immensely popular in America. This dissertation is the study of scrapworthy lives, that is, how lives become structured by scrapbooking and how people show others that their own life and the lives of their loves ones are valued—or scrapworthy. I conducted in-depth interviews with 38 scrapbookers, 11 scrapbook industry workers, and 10 family and friends of scrapbookers. I also used photo-elicitation interviewing techniques with both the scrapbookers and the family members and friends of 10 scrapbookers to examine a selection of scrapbook pages the respondent had completed. I used grounded theory methods to analyze my data, providing a more thorough understanding of scrapbooking.

Scrapbooks are a site where people socially construct a narrative of their life. Through scrapbooking, scrapbookers do gender, family, race, ethnicity, and religion. Stratification within the larger society can be seen within the scrapbooking thought community. Moreover, through scrapbooking, one can demonstrate their membership in other thought communities (e.g., motherhood). Though a scrapbooker is able to demonstrate their gender, family status, race, ethnicity, and religion through scrapbooking, the hobby is done primarily for the scrapbooker and not for others. Scrapbooking is a leisure activity, though some may consider it as a form of work.

Scrapbookers are a thought community in their own right and an excellent site to explore Zerubavel’s (1997) six cognitive acts (i.e., perceiving, classifying, reckoning time, attending, assigning meaning, and remembering). In particular, scrapbookers come to classify nearly everything (including people, things, time, and space) in the world around them as either scrapworthy or not.
Scrapbooks are a modern narrative form though versions of scrapbooks have been around for centuries. Scrapbooks are memorials about everyday life. The content of scrapbooks is what is left out of the typical history book but is considered just as memorable by the individual scrapbooker. Scrapbookers are storytellers. These stories could just as easily be passed down orally or recorded on blogs and some scrapbooks combine elements of oral histories and blogs. Ultimately, scrapbooks are memorials about the scrapbooker.

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