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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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Space as a Resource in the Politics of Consumer Identity

Journal(s): Journal of Consumer Research
Published: January 23, 2021
Author(s): Andre F. Maciel, Melanie Wallendorf

General Description
Dr. Andre Maciel, assistant professor of marketing, investigates the idea of cultural inequality in sociology and consumer behavior. He explains how some activities and identities are devalued or taken as odd or awkward while others are taken as normal. Though no one asks why someone is a football fan, he said, there is a difference between being a soap opera fan and an avid reader of science fiction or liking chick flicks versus the nine versions of Fast and Furious. Maciel added that traditional female activities are often devalued.

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Academic Abstract
Consumers can pursue a wide range of market-mediated identities in contemporary culture. However, some consumer identities are more valued than others, creating a form of cultural inequality. The present research considers consumers’ deliberate efforts to assert greater cultural value for their identities, a phenomenon termed a “politicized consumer identity project.” Specifically, this research focuses on consumers’ intentional use of space, a resource that is ubiquitous in social life but has, nonetheless, received limited theoretical attention regarding this type of identity project. This ethnography uses mixed methods to study a sample of women embedded in the new cult of domesticity, an ethos that induces participants to use various spaces as a way of claiming greater value for feminine consumer identities that are often demeaned by others. The results reveal a system of spatial practices that consumers employ to contest this cultural devaluation across a broad range of sites in their lives, from their homes to commercial and public venues. We conceptualize these practices as spatial affirmation, repurposing and incursion, showing their ideological and material interdependencies. This research advances understanding of the ties among consumer identities, space and cultural politics.

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