Through a looking glass: reflected experience in São Tomé and Principé
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The thesis sets out to examine how significant experience is sought, recognised and communicated in São Tomé and Principé. It notes the outcomes that are frequently searched for and describes the 'location' of significant experience in social interaction. It finds that experience which is personalised, qualitative and direct is preferred to that which is thought about. It describes how people adopt strategies that will result in achieving desired outcomes in social responses and material security and it notes that assertions made to achieve these ends can be seen to be associated with conditions of material life lived and utilise signs that reflect social differences locally and globally. It notes that material differences observed can be explained in social terms and social differences can be formed through showing material differences. The study examines ways in which the physical properties of the island and the cultural artifacts still present from the past have an ongoing influence in forming the content, timing and quality of personal and social actions. It notes how the development of personal social connections are associated with material obligations and both how social connections can be developed for this end and how material obligations enacted can confirm social connections. The study notes the seeming inevitability of interaction to form personal social connections and the need thus for maintenance of 'social distance' to enable impersonal commercial monetised exchange to occur. It notes how such distance can be normatively asserted on others and how some utilise an awareness of such social 'architecture' to form obligations from which they may gain materially. The study found that many people have clear and well formed ideas as to the qualities and interests of foreigners. Yet foreigners can also be evaluated by the signs and actions they show. The study concludes that an 'architecture' of significant experience exists for many in the reflected recognition of others and that much importance is placed in particular personalised social relations. The important economic consequences of this are briefly outlined.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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