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Anthropology in blue jeans



I begin this article with a brief history of the use of “the normative” in anthropology, starting with Kant and concluding with discussion of the concept within theories of practice. This is followed by an account of an ethnographic study of blue-jeans wearing in North London. The importance of becoming ordinary is exemplified in that study by migrants’ experience of being comfortable in blue jeans. I argue that jeans are the first postsemiotic garment, an antithesis to identity. I end by considering the challenge represented by the concept of “the ordinary” for anthropology's foundational presumption of the normative.