Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RN05_09c: Theories of markets and consumption
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Emma Helen Casey, Northumbria University
Location: BS.G.36
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road

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Sovereign Dupes? Navigating Cleanliness Conventions in Everyday Life

Tullia Jack

Lund University, Sweden

Conventions are part of everyday life; we are surrounded by representations of what we should aspire to from many different sources. If resource intensive practices are regularly represented as conventional, these potentially become naturalised and unsustainable consumption will increase. Understanding how conventions interact with everyday practices is thus fundamental in tackling unsustainable consumption.

To gain new insights into how representations and conventions interact, this paper explores how people respond to cleanliness representations in Swedish media. Cleanliness is chosen as a case for its role in accelerating water and energy consumption (Shove, 2003), and Sweden as cleanliness activities are in line with this upward trend (Jack, 2017). In this paper focus groups read magazines, discuss content and how this relates to their lives. Participants perceive cleanliness as being intertwined with a host of co-conventions such as freshness, health, femininity, masculinity, self-presentation, sustainability, et cetera. Participants have strategies to receive and resist representations, and are especially averse to representations that they suspect are meant to increase consumerism. Dilemmas for participants do not arise from deciding when or how to receive or resist. The real dilemmas arise when trying to integrate conventions into everyday life given the multiplicity of meaning around cleanliness, as well as new challenges around social stratification and sustainability. Participants see conventions as influencing wider society, but see themselves as individuals critically interacting with discourse, a sovereign dupe juxtaposition. Sovereign dupes critically perceive conventions and conscientiously object to those that are deemed oppressive, but also desire participation in wider society to positively construct everyday life in their own and the world’s best interests.

The Public Interest Approach to Gambling Policy and Research

Pekka Sulkunen

University of Helsinki, Finland

Evidence-based public policy usually requires proof of causality as its justification. The causes of problems must be identified and proof of the effectiveness of policy measures to alleviate them is a condition for their application. “What works?” is a standard requirement for regulation of problematic lifestyles or consumption. The requirement of causality is often in a strange contradiction with justice. In many lifestyle issues such as excessive eating, gambling, drinking or other behavioural problems causality usually cannot be demonstrated. We do not know, for example, whether poverty is a cause or a consequence of gambling, overconsumption of food, smoking, excessive drinking, substance use or other deleterious consumption patterns. On the other hand, negligence of policy in such lifestyle issues violates our sense of justice and common understandings of public responsibility. The presentation draws on key findings of a collective book on gambling policy and its empirical foundations.

The purity of dirt: Mary Douglas revisited

Kia Ditlevsen, Sidse Schoubye Andersen

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Consumption, ingredients, and related risks have changed substantially since the 1960s, yet the interpretation and conceptualization of purity and danger has evolved only little since Mary Douglas’ seminal work on the topic. In this study, we advance an empirically derived contemporary interpretation of purity and danger in relation to consumption and intake of food and dietary supplements. We do so by combining and examining qualitative interviews from two different recent research projects situated within the field of consumption and carried out in Denmark. We find that consumption of organic food products and consumption on behalf of one’s children share important similarities related to issues of purity and danger – and naturalness. Our main conclusion is that consumption choices are motivated by a (diffuse) sense of danger, anxiety of bodily contamination, resulting in a striving for purity. But in contrast to what was observed by Douglas in the 1960s, purification strategies today do not emphasize hygiene and sterility but rather focus on naturalness, although “natural” products may include objectively dirty and non-sterile elements.

Exploring Lost Property And The Materiality of Absence

Helen Holmes, Ulrike Ehgartner

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Abstract notions of absence, nothing and loss are becoming increasingly intriguing phenomena for sociologists interested in the everyday (Scott, 2018). However, whilst their theoretical connotations are being progressively discussed, empirical investigation into these phenomena remains absent. This paper presents the initial findings from a pilot project exploring lost property which seeks to translate the abstract notion of loss into an empirical and material focused study. Through qualitative interviews with: lost property offices; households; and museums, in Manchester, England, the project reveals how lost property connects debates on material culture and belonging with those on consumption, waste and sustainable resource use.

Significantly, the research addresses both the sacred and the profane, paying attention to lost items of symbolic and sentimental value (e.g jewellery), as well as those of a more ordinary nature (e.g umbrellas, gloves). In particular, it is interested in unpicking the ‘material affinities’ (Holmes, 2018), people have with objects and how lost things are brought to life through their very absence; their agency, material qualities and sensory abilities becoming more pronounced through their missing. This involves understanding how lost objects are replaced or substituted with other objects, and how strategies to prevent and deal with potential loss are played out, such as buying cheaper quality goods. Similar attention is paid to objects which are found, be it by individuals or lost property offices, and the multiple pathways such objects may travel. Broadly, the project contributes to debates on the sociology of the everyday, developing an agenda which explores the importance of people’s relationships to objects and the relevance of this for debates on consumption, everyday relationships and belonging.

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