Studying Physical Artifacts: An Interpretive Approach

Dvora Yanow

California State University, Hayward


Built spaces, decor, and so forth “are all symbolic objects . . . which refer to the manners and morals . . . and express the significance of the people and their way of life . . . , [evoking] sentiments about who they are and . . . justifying [a] vision of the [meaning] of their world.”

—William Lloyd Warner (1959, pp. 44–50 passim)

It should be noted that I did not count these behaviors or measure them. For I am interested in their meaning, and . . . the meaning of an event is in its relationship to the larger picture, not in the qualities of the event itself.. . . I must know, to derive meaning, exactly how each behavioral unit fits ...

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