The Three Hats of Death.


For the last ten years I have been examining the use of the material environment by individuals and families. My data generally concerned the changes in how objects have been used by particular groups over three generations from the beginning of the century to the present. Alongside participant observations my main material has been interviews with old people looking back on their lives, and private photographs “illustrating” family or personal life stories. It struck me in connection with the interviews that not only "souvenirs" exercise the function of recalling memories but in certain contexts, all other objects do so as well. Man remembering and forgetting through objects realizes and expresses his own self. In doing this, objects inevitably become linked with ego-ontological explanations which become mythologies for an individual, a family or a small group, allowing identity to be nurtured and expressed. A growing need for this on the part of fragmented societies bas appeared in the last ninety years when global social myths have been relegated to the background, split, deprived of their meaning, commercialized or affecting the subconscious.

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Kunt, E., (1990) “The Three Hats of Death.”, Ethnologia Europaea 21(1), 171-179. doi:


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Ernö Kunt (Herman Ottó Múseum, Hungary)



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