Consumer Culture Theory: Volume 19

Cover of Consumer Culture Theory

Table of contents

(13 chapters)


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Part I: (Hyper) Reality and Cultural Hybridization


Purpose: This paper examines a promotional exhibit for the Broadway musical Wicked, entitled “The World of Wicked,” to better understand the ways in which art marketers continue to hail new and existing consumers. Eco’s concept of hyperreality and its relationship to remediation and cultural sustainability are brought to bear upon this phenomenon. As producers utilize new media platforms to reach the consumer, they make the experience of their shows more immediate. Set in the context of a shopping mall, the hyperreality of the exhibit is unpacked and analyzed.

Design: This is an interpretive study using direct observation, participant observation, depth interviews, narrative analysis, and artifact analysis.

Findings: By facilitating embodiment, encouraging intense emotional arousal, and providing a sense of community, “The World of Wicked” is a metonym for Wicked itself. The hyperreal context of the shopping mall facilitates the consumption of fantasy as well as material goods.

Originality and value: The findings of this paper extend theories of hyperreality, adaptation, and remediation into the context of arts. This contribution is foundational to building a larger theory of cultural sustainability.


Purpose: In this paper, we focus on the mythic nature of the anonymous Bitcoin creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. Drawing on ideas from Foucault and Barthes on authorship, we analyze the notion of the absence of the author and how that sustains the brand. Design/methodology/approach: Based on interview data, participant observation, archival data, and a netnography, we examine the discourses that emerge in the wake of multiple Satoshi Nakamoto exposés that serve as both stabilizing and destabilizing forces in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Findings: We analyze the different interpretations of Satoshi Nakamoto through his own text and how his readers interpret him. We identify how consumers employ motifs of myth and religiosity in trying to find meaning in Satoshi’s disappearance. His absence allows for multiple interpretations of how the Bitcoin brand is viewed and adopted by a diverse community of enthusiasts.

Implications: Our findings provide a richer understanding of how, in a period of celebrity brands, Satoshi Nakamoto’s anti-celebrity stance helps sustain the Bitcoin ecosystem.

Originality/value: Our analysis examines the nature of anonymity in our hyper-celebrity culture and the mystique of the anonymous creator that fuels modern-day myths for brands without owners.


Purpose: This research explores parental management and use of media, as part of strategies to affirm children’s racial identities, as well as to assist such parenting efforts. It analyzes how parents construct Black children’s engagement with media, as being a counter-cultural coping mechanism, to temper the potential racial and diasporic discordance of their children’s identities.

Methodology/approach: There is analysis of in-depth interviews about the media marketplace experiences of Black women in Britain. The analytic approach is informed by studies of identity and visual consumption, as well as race in the marketplace, which emphasize how identity intersects with consumer culture.

Findings: Findings reveal that intra-racial, inter-racial, and inter-cultural relations influence how and why parents manage media that their Black children engage with, including when trying to reinforce their Black identities. Findings also indicate how online user-generated content enables parents to seek a sense of support as part of their inter-cultural and race-related parenting efforts.

Social implications: Findings at the root of this research point to the need for media producers and marketers to be sensitized to parental concerns about the development of their children’s Black identities.

Originality/value: This work foregrounds under-explored issues concerning parental race-work and processes of consumer biracialization in relation to media representation and spectatorship.

Part II: Navigating the Marketplace


Purpose: This study explores how the interplay between a passionate consumer and his embeddedness in the lively network of a consumer tribe represents a fertile environment for the emergence of an entrepreneurial venture that is able to combine micro- and macro-level concerns bridging tribe and marketplace needs.

Design/methodology/approach: The research, set within the context of an exemplar consumer’s entrepreneurial project, was conducted following a netnographic methodological approach.

Findings: By fluidly moving from within to outside the tribe in the wider marketplace, the entrepreneur crafts his own new space in the market through a cultural mediation work that effectively combines the affective, immaterial labor characterizing the social glue of the tribe collective ethos with entrepreneurial spirit and sharp marketing and consumer insight abilities. The entrepreneur acts as a resource integrator of traditional firm-driven and emerging consumer-driven marketplace without opposing existing market structures, but rather valorizing them through his intermediation work.

Research limitations: This is a single-case study that, although exemplar, needs to be expanded and consolidated with further empirical evidence.

Originality/value: The study contributes to extant literature on consumer-driven market emergence and new market system dynamics by uncovering the role of consumer entrepreneur as a reconfigurator of the existing market resources.


Purpose: This paper adopts a practice-oriented approach to address gaps in existing knowledge of the significance of cultural producers’ and intermediaries’ practices of taste for the construction and organization of markets. Using the example of the cultural field of “natural” wine, I propose how taste operates as a logic of practice, generating market actions in relation to the aesthetic regime of provenance.

Methodology/approach: The paper sets out the conceptual relationship between aesthetic regimes and practices of taste. The discussion draws from interpretive research on natural wine producers and cultural intermediaries involving 40 interviews with natural wine makers, retailers, sommeliers, and writers based in New York, Western Australia, the Champagne region, and the Cape Winelands.

Findings: Three dimensions of how taste is translated into action are examined: as a device of division, which establishes a fuzzy logic of resemblance; as a device of operation, which provides an intuitive platform for shaping the means of production; and as a device of coordination, which enables an embedded experience of trust.

Originality/value: The paper’s discussion of dispositions, affect, intuition, and pattern identification provide new insights into the translation of taste into action, and the macro-organization of markets. I argue for attention to how cultural producers and cultural intermediaries are mobilized through their habitual sense of taste, shifting the focus away from consumers to those whose market actions are largely self- and peer-referential. This is important for understanding processes of market development and value construction.


Purpose: This paper examines beef consumption practices in two villages of Tamil Nadu, India. It inquires into how the upper castes create spatial boundaries to separate the inside from the outside in their consumption of beef.

Methodology: The research was carried out in two villages of Kariacheri and Pudupattinam located in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu, India. We conducted 70 in-depth interviews, and observed beef buying and consumption practices.

Findings: The research shows how the upper castes separate the inside from the outside and surreptitiously consume beef. Dalits or untouchables are unable to create such separations, and as a result are stigmatized and ostracized. Moreover, the distinction between the inside and the outside is not fixed but is in a state of transition.

Originality and value: This study offers insights into how stigma is defined by spatial boundaries. These insights help to understand purity, pollution, and stigma in consumption practices as ongoing processes that are often created to justify social divisions and discriminatory practices.


Purpose: This study examines the experiences and struggles of young women with breast cancer as they navigate the intersectionality of their illness and gender identity. Specifically, the research explores the construction and expression of gender identity as a core part of who they were prior to diagnosis and who they desire to be in the future.

Design and methodology: A phenomenological approach was used to investigate how women with breast cancer experience changes related to gender identity. Eighteen in-depth interviews were conducted with young women who have been diagnosed within the last five years.

Findings: Young women undergo gender identity disruptions and shifts as the result of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Informants expressed feelings that their resultant identities do not conform to cultural normative representations of gender, which profoundly impact their perceptions of the physical self, gender roles, and intimate relationships. At this acute stage, they struggled with the loss of important body markers of femininity (breasts, hair, etc.) and attempted through consumption to find alternative ways to enact gender expressions.

Originality and value: This research explores consumer experiences when bodies do not conform to idealized body images and cultural representations of gender. Informants revealed a complex portrait of women who experience the early, invasive stages of illness and body transformation.


Purpose: This study seeks to determine the marketplace practices in which consumers engage with regard to masculine and feminine codes employed in product design. Since extant consumer research argues that consumers prefer marketing stimuli that match their sex or gender identity, this study also asks how consumers’ practices inform this understanding of the possession-self link.

Design/methodology/approach: This study used semi-structured interviews with an auto-driving component to answer the research questions. Data from 20 interviews were analyzed using feminist critical discourse analysis and a poststructuralist feminist-informed theoretical framework.

Findings: Four consumer practices identified in the data show that interpretations and evaluations of product gender are sometimes, but not always, a reflection of the gendered self.

Research limitations/implications: This research shares a snapshot of a cohort of individuals that interact with the marketplace, but there are some perspectives missing. Future research must engage with individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as non-binary or gender nonconforming individuals, in order to enhance or even challenge these findings.

Practical implications (if applicable): Evidence from the marketplace demonstrates intense criticism of products that have been coded as masculine or feminine based on gender stereotypes or men and women’s perceived aesthetic tastes. Marketers are encouraged to use gender codes to differentiate products catered to men and women based on their ergonomic or biological needs.

Originality/value: This study complicates theory on the possession-self link to show cases in which that link is broken. Engaging critically with the topic of product gender from a poststructuralist feminist perspective also illustrates how marketing practices may help or harm consumers.


Purpose: This paper examines emerging consumption patterns in Vietnam’s transportation market, and considers them within broader practices and histories of mobility. I examine how Vietnamese consumers are apprehending the current transportation shift from motorcycles to automobiles and the corresponding societal transformations it foreshadows and remembers.

Design/methodology: Research was conducted between 2013 and 2016 and involved analyses of transportation industry global and regional documents and reports, observations and interviews with users and sellers of motorcycles and automobiles in Vietnam, participant observation and focus groups with drivers and driving schools in Danang and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and discussions with transportation designers, engineers, manufacturers, and marketing professionals.

Findings: Shifts in manufacturing and recent regional and international trade agreements mandating tariff reductions on transportation commodities have been reorienting material and temporal relations to the market. In this transition period when the meaning and valuation of motorcycles are shifting, anticipations of automobiles are paramount.

Originality and value: By analyzing emerging transportation markets in Vietnam, I identify potential collaborative opportunities for stakeholders in academia, industry, and policy to further explore issues of transportation and mobility preferences and developments in Southeast Asia and suggest that this may be a productive arena for lateral learning.


Purpose: This paper uses performance theory to explore how wine-tourism experiences are orchestrated by wine tour guides to encourage engagement of consumers. It describes how such orchestration is built on material elements such as landscapes, architecture, vineyards, production facilities, and wine tastings.

Design/methodology/approach: A multi-layer ethnographic research on wine-tourism was employed. The interviews, observations, and field notes were analyzed through the lens of performance theory. A constant comparative method was used to identify emergent patterns, and a hermeneutic method was used to interpret the data.

Findings: The paper builds on performance theory and delineates the ways in which guides co-create intense experiences with participants. It portrays how tour guides often adjust their theatrical scripts to consumers’ unique needs through creative variations: surprise treats, activities, and personal stories. When guides take pleasure in tours, participants do as well, resulting in memorable co-created experiences. The tours feature processes such as pitching and relation-building techniques that call upon identity, morality, and materiality scripts, which ultimately build a sense of social obligation among participants toward tour guides and winery staff.

Originality/value: From a theoretical perspective, the paper adds value to the discussion of performance in tourism by suggesting that the service blueprint, architecture, and employee training are only part of the story. This paper shows how consumer engagement and interactions between participants, guides, architecture, and landscapes are essential elements of memorable experiences.

Research limitations: Like other studies, there are limitations to our study as well. Our study only included one-day wine tours. A broader investigation of strategic alliances between tour companies and wineries, and how wine tourists experience and sustain a sense of social obligations to the wineries they visit, will provide further insights into how wine-tourism functions as a co-creative emergent form of consumption involving individuals, products, and processes.

Part III: The Consumer Culture Theory Paradigm


Purpose: The paper makes use of Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” to explain Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) as a normal scientific tradition. The paper intends to show how a previously marginalized research tradition has now started solidifying its paradigmatic boundaries, and what implications this holds for aspiring CCT scholars.

Method/approach: The paper makes use of literature from the Journal of Consumer Research and Marketing Theory to point out the methodological and practical issues in the discipline that have been pointed out by CCT proponents. These criticisms are discussed as scientific “anomalies.” Furthermore, the paper critically analyzes immigrant acculturation literature produced by CCT researchers in the past 30 years through a Kuhnian lens to show proponents of the fields implicitly addressing different “anomalies,” explaining the tradition to be a normal scientific one.

Findings: An in-depth analysis of immigrant acculturation literature within CCT shows every successive project within the field has addressed “anomalies” by pointing out research gaps, providing a rationale for their respective methodology, and, in turn, adding precision to theoretical frameworks, depicting a normal scientific tradition.

Originality and value: The paper adds value by discussing the probable consequences of this boundary solidification. On one hand, aspiring scholars will have scientific assumptions with which to enter the laboratory (consumer world) and guidelines that can be used toward publishing. On the other, this can also lead to a possible dogmatization of an emerging consumer research paradigm, making it difficult for new scholars to be creative.


Pages 207-212
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Cover of Consumer Culture Theory
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Research in Consumer Behavior
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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