“When I drove into the parking lot of Replacements, Ltd., on the outskirts of Greensboro, North Carolina, I thought of a saying that Rosanne Cash attributes to her father, Johnny, who was an avid collector of rugs, china, linens, and furniture: ‘Every possession is just a stick to beat yourself with.’ There are many, many sticks with which one might beat oneself at Replacements….
“I came to see the huge collection of Fiestaware, the beloved American-made brand of colorful china, and to follow a hunch I had that a plate has special significance in the South. This was both an ethnographic mission for my work as a cultural anthropologist [at Duke] and a personal quest: I am one of countless Americans who collect Fiestaware. Nietzsche would describe me as an ‘antiquarian,’ or someone who believes that the past ‘belongs to the preserving and revering soul — to him who with loyalty and love looks back on his origins.’ Mostly, I hoped to understand the pull in my gut, an embodied sense of longing, I feel every time I see those brightly colored dinner plates….”
Alexander isn’t alone in her fetish. Approaching the vast Fiestaware display at Replacements, her guide warned that “One woman fainted when she saw this, and another fell to her knees — I saw it happen…. Fiestaware can do that to people.”