Geographies of Consumption

Juliana Mansvelt

in Geography

ISBN: 9780199874002
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Geographies of Consumption

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  • Human Geography



The 1980s through early 21st century saw a relative explosion in consumption research within geography. Initially dominated by Marxist and political economic approaches originating in economic geographies and focused on more spectacular consumer spaces, contemporary consumption research is currently characterized by a range of cultural and economic approaches that examine the socialities, subjectivities, and spatialities of consumption. Geographers have explored how different spaces of consumption are produced and exist in relation to each other at scales from the global to the body, and have examined sites such as homes, gardens, spaces of first- and secondhand retailing, places of work, the Internet, and consumption in rural, urban, First- and Third-World contexts. Understanding the situatedness of consumption practice has also involved considering the temporality and historical constitution of consumption, with a number of geographers attending to questions of whether the attributes of contemporary consumption are qualitatively different from those occurring in earlier time periods. The development of a range of theoretical perspectives has been informed by work from other disciplines such as cultural and feminist studies, and sociology (including the work of Weber, Bourdieu, and Veblen). More recently, post-structural approaches and theorists such as Deleuze, Latour, and Foucault have been evident in consumption. Contemporary research is a product of both economic and cultural geographies with many consumption geographers endeavoring to overcome dichotomous constructions of production and consumption and culture and economy. Research on commodity chains, the transnational constitution of consumption, and work on retail, material geographies, and green and sustainable geographies of consumption have begun to elide such binaries. Some of these approaches have centered on following the social and spatial lives of commodities. Commodity studies of food have been predominant, but music, health services, consumer durables, drugs and alcohol, and apparel/fashion are just some of numerous commodities that have been examined by geographers. Over time, the focus of research on consumer practices has shifted from purchase and acquisition to considering the appropriation, use, and re-use of commodities, and more recently to matters of disposal. While geographers have been at the forefront of claims to reject the identity-ridden and wasteful nature of contemporary consumption, they have been interested to explore the ways in which dimensions of identity are embodied and emplaced through relationships between people and things. This includes an examination of race, gender, sexuality, age, familial relations, bodily size, and mobility as these are constituted through consumption practices and places. A concern with investigating the political nature of consumption and the ways in which power, ethicality, and morality are framed through commercial cultures and everyday practice has meant geographers are well placed to contribute to debates on the governance and implementation of more sustainable futures.

Article.  25428 words. 

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography ; Human Geography

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