“An individual’s role in social life is fragmentary unless attached to something of permanence. The history of the past, equally fragmentary, is concentrated in an object that, in its material substance, defies destruction. Thus, keeping an object defined as inalienable adds to the value of one’s past, making the past a powerful resource for the present and the future”

“Inalienable possessions are imbued with affective qualities that are expressions of the value an object has when it is kept by its owners and inherited within the same family or descent group. Age adds value, as does the ability to keep the object against all the exigencies that might force a person or a group to release it to others. The primary value of inalienability, however, is expressed through the power these objects have to define who one is in an historical sense. The object acts as a vehicle for bringing past time into the present, so that the histories of ancestors, titles, or mythological events become an intimate part of a person’s present identity. To lose this claim to the past is to lose part of who one is in the present. In its inalienability, the object must be seen as more than an economic resource and more than an affirmation of social relations.”

From Weiner, Annette B., Inalienable Wealth in American Ethnologist, Vol. 12, No. 2 (May, 1985), pp. 210-227


Image of my Great Grandmother’s Thimble.

“Inalienable possessions collect and make tangible domestic history, family ancestors’ achievements, special events, and mythologies, collapsing and injecting them into contemporary group and individual identity (Weiner 1985, 1992).”

“…research combines the categories of keepsakes and family heirlooms and describes them as sometimes sacred, material anchors for self identity, indexical symbols of relationships with deceased kinfolk, and vehicles for creating, shaping, and sustaining memories (Finch and Mason 2000).”

“…with narrative intervention to supplant fading indexical value, cherished keepsakes are more likely to become inalienable.”

“…inalienable wealth is also an obligation and a burden.”

From Folkman Curasi, Carolyn, Price, Linda L., Arnould, Eric J., How Individuals’ Cherished Possessions
Become Families’ Inalienable Wealth, in Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. Vol. 31 (December 2004)

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