Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 215–234

On Dutch windows

  • Hernan Vera


In The Netherlands, living room windows are big, left uncovered day and night, and elaborately decorated. This pattern, which is widespread in all urban and rural regions in this country, disappears abruptly as soon as the border into Germany is crossed where windows are generally smaller, consistently covered, and more sparsely decorated. Going south into Flanders, the disappearance of open and decorated windows is gradual but noticeable.

The cognitive and sensory meaning of a single object in material culture, the Dutch window, is examined as a concrete articulation of the boundary between the public and private realms by “thinking it with” successive conceptual frames in sociology. Assuming that material objects are embodiments of ideas, the study focuses on (a) the norms for looking and for looking out of the windows, (b) the territorial boundary being established and, (c) the information game played through the windows in a context of the notion of privacy. Photographs of the cultural objects under consideration, i.e., Dutch windows, are presented throughout the text as reminders that the cultural and material realms are sensually linked. The study concludes that objects in material culture must be examined in terms of the active, purposive acts we accomplish by adapting the objects to our practical and expressive needs.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hernan Vera
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of FloridaGainesville

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