Session at the 16th EASA Biennial Conference: New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe

This panel interrogates competing visions of absence and excess in domestic practices of accumulation, management, and disposal. What does the emergence of lifestyles like minimalism, no-waste living, and frugality tell us about how domestic life is politicized under austerity and late-capitalism?

At the height of consumer capitalism and its environmental and social consequences, the accumulation of domestic stuff and the question of what to do with it has come to capture national conversations. Presented as antidote to theses excesses, minimalism has emerged as a new (or renewed) lifestyle and aesthetic trend. This movement alternatively draws on ideas of Eastern spirituality (as in the KonMari method) or on Western pathologies of mental dis/order (Kilroy-Marac 2016) to actively curate 'absence' as a moral value. At the same time, and often in the same context, austerity politics has given rise to practices of budgeting and coupon cutting, while heightened environmental concerns have birthed new sustainable or waste-free lifestyles. As a result, practices now classed as 'excess', including conspicuous consumption, prepping, and hoarding are frequently subject to denunciation and voyeurism. Whether elected or enforced, these lifestyles speak to how domestic space is being reconfigured in relation to new economic and environmental pressures. In this panel, we ask: how do people acquire, manage, or reduce the material stuff that has come to dominate the domestic sphere in the 21st century? What can the material processes of new lifestyle practices tell us about how life is politicised and experienced today? This panel will bring together diverse ethnographic studies to examine how the values of excess and absence are produced within new political contexts and changing climates. In particular, we invite papers that explore these themes in relation to class, ethnicity, gender, and family dynamics.


  • Hannah Gould (University of Melbourne)
  • Cynthia Sear (University of Melbourne )
  • Julie Valk (UCL)