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Assembling tribes: An assemblage thinking approach to the dynamics of ephemerality within consumer tribes

Carlos A. Diaz Ruiz (Graduate School of Management, University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand)
Lisa Penaloza (Department of Marketing, KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France)
Jonas Holmqvist (Department of Marketing, KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 5 March 2020

Issue publication date: 5 May 2020




This paper aims to investigate the dynamics of ephemerality within consumer tribes by conceptualizing how tribes constitute, disperse and reconstitute. Building upon assemblage thinking, a philosophical approach that redistributes agency from the subject to a web of interconnected human–material actants, this paper shows that tribes manifest via hybrid assemblages of people, things and ideas.


Insights are drawn from a three-year assemblage-oriented ethnographic study of a salsa-dancing tribe, specifically their ephemeral gatherings across multiple sites without hierarchical organization. Methods include observations as a consumer–participant, producer–participant and in-depth interviewing.


Introduces a framework documenting how tribes disperse temporarily and reconstitute via a dual process of ascription and distribution. Tribes reconstitute when consumers reproduce an assemblage that effectively overcomes a meshwork of practical challenges. Consumers ascribe to the standards of the tribe while, alternatively, tribes distribute the assemblage beyond the immediate group.

Research limitations/implications

Conceptualizes the socio-technical dynamics that tribes mobilize to disassemble and reassemble through ephemeral gatherings. Proposes a framework on hybrid interdependencies, including not only participants but also techniques, devices and sites.

Practical implications

While previous research shows that tribes can collapse, the authors propose that marketers can intervene to foster long-term resilience. As tribes disperse, consumer and marketing efforts operate at different temporal sequences to enable tribal reconstitutions.


Contributes to the literature on consumer tribes by theorizing ephemerality per ascription and distribution mechanisms.



Diaz Ruiz, C.A., Penaloza, L. and Holmqvist, J. (2020), "Assembling tribes: An assemblage thinking approach to the dynamics of ephemerality within consumer tribes", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 5, pp. 999-1024.



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