Opening the Flatpack:

Ethnography, Art, and the Billy Bookcase (7.5 ECTS)
John Freyer and Johan Lindquist Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

with University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack) and Uglycute (

1. Tuesday February 22: 10:00-12:00, Stockholm University.

Meet and Greet: Introduction to Class

Fieldwork # 1 due (see assignments below)

View: (Who enjoy’s shopping in IKEA?)

Read: Daniel Spoerri, “An Anecdoted Topography of Chance.”
2. Friday February 25: 10:00-15:00, UGLYCUTE, Kvarngatan 14.

Fieldwork # 2 due Build: A Billy Workshop

Read: Daniel Birnbaum, “IKEA at the End of Metaphysics,” Frieze, 31:33-36, 1996.

Alan Penn, “The Complexity of the Elementary Interface: Shopping Space.”

Robert Venturi et al., Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press, 1972, part 1, pp. 3-83.

3. Tuesday March 1: 10:00-12:00 Stockholm University, Room B 600.

Read: Learning from Las Vegas, part 2, pp. 87-165. Ian Cook and Mike Crang, Doing Etnographies, 1995;

4. Friday March 4: 11:00-14:00 Kungens Kurva IKEA. Meet at information booth at main entrance.

Fieldwork # 3 due 

Read: Anders Bj√∂rkvall, “Practical Function and Meaning: A Case Study of IKEA Tables,”
in Carey Jewitt (ed) The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. Routledge, 2009. 

Pauline Garvey, “Consuming IKEA and Inspiration as Material Form,” in A. J. Clarke and
K. Dankl (eds) Design Anthropology. New York: Springer Verlag, 2011. 

Pauline Garvey, 2009, “Culture Materialised: IKEA Furniture and Other Evangelical
Objects,” in J. Fenwick (ed) Lost and Found. Wordwell Press, 2009. 1

Tod Hartman, “On the Ikeaization of France,” Public Culture 19(3): 483-498, 2007. 

Ursula Lindqvist, “The Cultural Archive of the IKEA Store,” Space and Culture 12(1): 43-
62, 2009.

5. Tuesday March 8: 9:00-12:00 Konstfack, room S4

Guest speaker: Pauline Garvey, National University of Maynouth Read: 

Georg Simmel, “The Handle,” 1911.

Inge Daniels, The Japanese House: Material Culture in the Modern Home, Berg, 2010, Introduction and Chapter 5.

Daniel Miller, The Comfort of Things, Polity Press, 2008, Prologue, Portrait 7 “Home and Homeland,” Portrait 13 “McDonald’s Truly Happy Meals,” Portrait 18 “Shi,” Epilogue: If this is Modern Life—Then What is it?, Appendix: The Study.

Recommended: Arjun Appadurai, “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in Arjun Appadurai (ed) The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, 1994.

6. Friday March 11: 10:00-15:00, UGLYCUTE, Kvarngatan 14.

Presentation by Uglycute

Fieldwork # 4

7. Tuesday March 15: 10:00-15:00, UGLYCUTE, Kvarngatan 14.

Special Workshop with Guest Artist Christine Hill, “Flat-packing the Flat-pack.”

Read: Christine Hill, Minutes: The Volksboutique Weekly Diary 2006-2007, Ostfildern- Ruit, 2007.

Lucy R. Lippard, “Bargains,” Inventory, Hatje Cantz, 2003. Barbara Steiner, “Concepts and Images of Economy,” Inventory, Hatje Cantz, 2003.

18:30 Christine Hill Artist Talk, UGLYCUTE, Kvarngatan 14.

8. Friday March 18: 10:00-15:00, UGLYCUTE, Kvarngatan 14.
Guest artist: Michael Johansson (

9. Tuesday March 22: 10:00-12:00 Stockholm University, Room B 600. 

10. Friday March 25: 10:00-15:00 Konstfack, room El. Guest critic: Inge Daniels, Oxford University

Field Work # 1 - You Are Here: Personal Bookcase Inventory. Please prepare a “comprehensive” inventory of a bookcase or storage shelf in your personal residence. Use any recording device or combination thereof; still camera, pencil, audio recorder, flip camera, cell phone etc. (BILLY preferred but not required) Bring a summary of your inventory to class on the first day in paper form (single sheet of A4 preferred) DUE FEB 22nd.

Field Work # 2 - Project Purchase: Go in pairs to IKEA, walk entire store, eat in restaurant, and purchase a full size Billy Bookcase of your choice (no extras). Document all aspects of your IKEA experience. Use any recording device or combination thereof. Collect free IKEA materials. Upload to DUE FEB 25th.

Field Work # 3 - BILLY is Your Friend: Incorporating our discussions and readings thus far; complete a more specific interview/inventory with a friend and their BILLY bookcase/bookcases. Choose an appropriate recording method for your area of interest; please refer to Cook and Crang for ideas and strategies. DUE MARCH 4th.

Field Work # 4 BILLY is on Facebook: Using social networks or personal connections find someone that you have never met to interview about their BILLY bookcase/bookcases. Continue to draw from our discussions and readings and be mindful of what kinds of questions/ideas you plan to focus on for the rest of your field work. In addition to your field work report, please prepare a short proposal for your final project. DUE MARCH 11th.

Field Work # 5 BILLY is Alive: The final stage of field work will be determined by each member of the class in consultation with the rest of class and the instructors. This research will be used/incorporated into the group final project/projects. DUE MARCH 18th.

Final Project: The final projects for this class may take a variety of forms, all research/products/artworks completed during this class must acknowledge the contributions of the larger group and must be made available for non-exclusive documentation, reproduction and/or publication. DUE MARCH 25th @ Konstfack.