The Temporal Uses of Moral Things: Manifesting, Anchoring and Conserving Caring Relations within the Sensorium

Andy Balmer, Robert Meckin, Owen Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we argue that menthol-containing products, like chewing gums, vapour rubs and mouthwashes, are used as moral things within everyday practices. They take on moral functions because of how their material qualities contribute to sensory experiences. Specifically, we focus on scenarios in which menthol products become associated with the moral work of care and highlight the temporal dimension of what people do with moral things. We review the literature on morality as a practical, everyday accomplishment and stress the embodied nature of caring practices to outline how care is bound up with sensory experience. We draw on rich qualitative data generated through creative methods, including film, photography and sketching, as part of object-elicitation interviews, focus groups, home tours and ‘pop-up stalls’. We develop three concepts regarding the function of moral things: manifesting, anchoring and conserving moral relations to describe how time, morality and the sensory are entwined.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020.

Funding Information: The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: funding for this project came from the SYNBIOCHEM Centre Grant, awarded by the BBSRC and EPSRC, grant number: BB/M017702/1. Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2020. Copyright: Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Care
  • Everyday life
  • Material culture
  • Morality
  • Practices
  • Sensory
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Temporality
  • Time

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