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Teaching Portfolio. Specific CCT studies address various aspects of each, and hence they are not neatly typologized. Still, for purposes of analytic exposition, it is possible to distinguish among the kinds of issues that fall under each and to identify studies that bring these respective theoretical issues to the theoretical foreground. Consumer culture theory concerns the coconstitutive, coproductive ways in which consumers, working with marketer-generated materials, forge a coherent if diversified and often fragmented sense of self Belk ; McCracken The corollary premise is that the marketplace has become a preeminent source of mythic and symbolic resources through which people, including those who lack resources to participate in the market as full-fledged consumers, construct narratives of identity Belk ; Hill ; Hill and Stamey ; Holt ; Levy In this work, consumers are conceived of as identity seekers and makers.

Consumer identity projects are typically considered to be goal driven Mick and Buhl ; Schau and Gilly , although the aims pursued may often be tacit in nature and vaguely understood; see Arnould and Price ; Thompson and Tambyah and marked by points of conflict, internal contradictions, ambivalence, and even pathology Hirschman ; Mick and Fournier ; Murray ; O'Guinn and Faber ; Otnes et al. These complications frequently engender the use of myriad coping strategies, compensatory mechanisms, and juxtapositions of seemingly antithetical meanings and ideals.

In their work on digital self-presentation, for instance, Schau and Gilly show how consumers use brands and hyperlinks to create multiple nonlinear cyber self-representations without necessarily sacrificing the idea of an integrated self. Consumer culture theorists have turned attention to the relationship between consumers' identity projects and the structuring influence of the marketplace, arguing that the market produces certain kinds of consumer positions that consumers can choose to inhabit.

While individuals can and do pursue personally edifying goals through these consumer positions, they are enacting and personalizing cultural scripts that align their identities with the structural imperatives of a consumer-driven global economy. In this spirit, Kozinets explores how fan identity is constituted in relationship to utopian ideals and the cooptation of those ideas by corporate media; Belk et al. In a related vein, Grayson and Martinec suggest that experiences of authenticity in tourist settings are systematically linked to particular forms of signification indexical and iconic authenticity and consumers' corresponding imaginative and fantasy-oriented elaborations upon these different semiotic modalities.

The study of marketplace cultures addresses some of the most distinctive features of the marketplace-culture intersection. In contrast to traditional anthropological views of people as culture bearers, consumers are seen as culture producers. The key research question driving this program of research is this: how does the emergence of consumption as a dominant human practice reconfigure cultural blueprints for action and interpretation, and vice versa? One family of CCT research devoted to marketplace cultures has sought to unravel the processes by which consumer culture is instantiated in particular cultural milieu and the implications of this process for people experiencing it.

This stream of CCT research also addresses the ways in which consumers forge feelings of social solidarity and create distinctive, fragmentary, self-selected, and sometimes transient cultural worlds through the pursuit of common consumption interests Belk and Costa ; Kozinets ; Schouten and McAlexander Whether characterized as a subculture of consumption Kates ; Schouten and McAlexander , a consumption world Holt , a consumption microculture Thompson and Troester , or a culture of consumption Kozinets , this genre of CCT builds upon Maffesoli's ideas on neotribalism.

According to Maffesoli, the forces of globalization and postindustrial socioeconomic transformation have significantly eroded the traditional bases of sociality and encouraged instead a dominant ethos of radical individualism oriented around a ceaseless quest for personal distinctiveness and autonomy in lifestyle choices. Much of the initial work on marketplace subcultures has focused on youth subcultures Thornton Consumer culture theory research has shown that the tribal aspects of consumption are quite pervasive. These studies highlight how experiential consumption activities, such as skydiving Celsi, Rose, and Leigh , fandom Kozinets , countercultural lifestyles Kates ; Thompson and Troester , and temporary consumption communities Arnould and Price ; Belk and Costa ; Kozinets , foster collective identifications grounded in shared beliefs, meanings, mythologies, rituals, social practices, and status systems.

This research has also shown that marketplace cultures often define their symbolic boundaries through an ongoing opposition to dominant i. In contrast to classic sociological accounts of subculture, in-group social status in these settings is achieved not through adherence to monolithic consumption norms but through displays of localized cultural capital particular forms of knowledge and skills valued in the group and skill in combining, reworking, and innovating the pool of symbolic resources that are shared by group members see Belk and Costa ; Celsi et al. The third domain that CCT addresses is the institutional and social structures that systematically influence consumption, such as class, community, ethnicity, and gender.

Consumers are conceived of as enactors of social roles and positions Otnes, Lowrey, and Kim In short, the driving research problematic is set by the question: what is consumer society and how is it constituted and sustained? To address this problematic, consumer culture theorists investigate the processes by which consumption choices and behaviors are shaped by social class hierarchies Allen ; Holt , ; Wallendorf ; gender Bristor and Fischer ; Dobscha and Ozanne ; Fischer and Arnold ; Thompson ; Thompson and Haytko ; Thompson, Locander, and Pollio ; ethnicity Belk ; Mehta and Belk ; Reilly and Wallendorf ; Wallendorf and Reilly ; and families, households, and other formal groups Moore-Shay, Wilkie, and Lutz ; Wallendorf and Arnould ; Ward and Reingen In this branch of work, Holt , shows how cultural capital endowments distributed by social class systematically structure consumer preferences.

Wallendorf suggests that literacy, a skill set fundamental to effective consumer behavior, is distributed by class and race. Allen shows how working-class consumer choices are molded by tacit cultural capital endowments into which they have been socialized and that systematically thwart their explicit social mobility goals. Reciprocally, CCT examines the relationships among consumers' experiences, belief systems, and practices and these underlying institutional and social structures.

In another vein, postassimilationist consumer research suggests that ethnic identities have, in some sense, become hypercultural in that the culture of origin is socially reconstructed as something consumable costume, foods, crafts, music as part of attempts to assert an anchoring for identity in fluid social contexts Askegaard, Arnould, and Kjeldgaard ; Oswald Consumer culture theory examines consumer ideology—systems of meaning that tend to channel and reproduce consumers' thoughts and actions in such a way as to defend dominate interests in society Hirschman The questions guiding this research program figure prominently in much critical and media theory outside of consumer research e.

They include the following: What normative messages do commercial media transmit about consumption Hirschman ? How do consumers make sense of these messages and formulate critical responses Hetrick and Lozada ; Hirschman and Thompson ; Murray and Ozanne ; Murray, Ozanne, and Shapiro ? In this research program, consumers are conceived of as interpretive agents whose meaning-creating activities range from those that tacitly embrace the dominant representations of consumer identity and lifestyle ideals portrayed in advertising and mass media to those that consciously deviate from these ideological instructions.

This latter family of interpretive strategies gives rise to variegated forms of identity play and sometimes shades into strident criticisms of corporate capitalism and marketing as a social institution Holt ; Kozinets ; Kozinets and Handelman ; Murray ; Thompson At the macro level, CCT research investigates the influences that economic and cultural globalization exert upon consumer identity projects and identity-defining patterns of social interaction distinctive social contexts Arnould ; Belk et al.

Moving down to a meso level of analysis, consumer culture theorists also explore how particular cultural production systems, such as marketing communications or the fashion industry McCracken ; Thompson and Haytko , systematically predispose consumers toward certain kinds of identity projects. The theoretical understanding of structural predisposing has been significantly developed by research on the design and management of servicescapes both built and natural and the systematic effects they exert over consumer experiences McAlexander et al.

Just as a store layout can direct consumers' physical movements through retail space, servicescapes have a narrative design that also directs the course of consumers' mental attention, experiences, and related practices of self-narration. Studies operating in this research domain frequently draw from semiotic and literary critical theories to analyze the symbolic meanings, cultural ideals, and ideological inducements encoded in popular culture texts and the rhetorical tactics that are used to make these ideological appeals compelling Escalas and Stern ; Hirschman , ; Holbrook and Grayson ; McQuarrie and Mick ; Mick ; Sherry and Camargo ; Stern , , Scott , a , b has shown how a culturally oriented view of the elements that form the gestalt of an advertisement i.

Similarly, Escalas and Stern and McQuarrie and Mick , , employ pluralistic multimethods approaches, the latter to analyze rhetorical and imagistic qualities that contribute to advertising resonance and encourage more complex advertising processing than classical models describe. Consumer culture theorists read popular culture texts advertisements, television programs, films as lifestyle and identity instructions that convey unadulterated marketplace ideologies i.

By decoding and deconstructing these mass-mediated marketplace ideologies, consumer culture theorists reveal the ways in which capitalist cultural production systems invite consumers to covet certain identity and lifestyle ideals. Deighton and Grayson offer a counterintuitive spin on this interpretive agent viewpoint by analyzing how consumers willingly become complicit in their own seduction by marketplace narratives. Most research on consumers' practices of ideological resistance highlights the creative and often sophisticated ways in which consumers critically reinterpret media and advertising ideals and ideological inducements Scott a.

For example, Mick and Buhl profile the way in which consumers' life themes and life projects shape their readings of advertisements. Thus, consumers bend advertisements to fit their life circumstances rather than feel a pressure to conform to a specific ideological representation. Ritson and Elliott show that advertisements often become a social resource for humor, social bonding, and conversational interactions in which consumers collectively critique and rework the meanings of a given campaign.

It is interesting that few of these interactions actually instigate pressures to buy the product or brand advertised. In this family of CCT studies, consumers are conceptualized as interpretive agents rather than as passive dupes. Thus, various forms of consumer resistance inevitably greet the dominant normative ideological influence of commercial media and marketing. Consumers seek to form lifestyles that defy dominant consumerist norms or that directly challenge corporate power Dobscha and Ozanne ; Kozinets ; Murray and Ozanne ; Murray et al.

In this vein, Kozinets and Handelman call into question the standard assumption that a natural alliance exists between consumers and consumer activists. By highlighting activists' quasi-evangelical quest to instigate significant changes in the moral outlook of mainstream consumers who are deemed to be part of the problem , this study also extends prior theorizations that construe consumer activism as primarily motivated by an ethos of good citizenship and an antinomy toward corporations. Consumer culture theory is fulfilling the recurrent calls of consumer research's thought leaders for a distinctive body of theoretical knowledge about consumption and marketplace behaviors.

It strives to systematically link individual level or idiographic meanings to different levels of cultural processes and structure and then to situate these relationships within historical and marketplace contexts. It presents a continual reminder that consumption is a historically shaped mode of sociocultural practice that emerges within the structures and ideological imperatives of dynamic marketplaces.

Accordingly, CCT researchers investigate how consumers consume Holt across a gamut of social spaces e. Consumer culture theory research also highlights that the proverbial real world, for any given consumer, is neither unified, monolithic, nor transparently rational Belk et al. Consumer culture theory research shows that many consumers' lives are constructed around multiple realities and that they use consumption to experience realities linked to fantasies, invocative desires, aesthetics, and identity play that differ dramatically from the quotidian see Belk and Costa ; Deighton and Grayson ; Firat and Venkatesh ; Holt ; Holt and Thompson ; Joy and Sherry ; Kozinets , ; Martin ; Schau and Gilly ; Schouten and McAlexander What are the new frontiers for CCT?

One area conspicuously absent from this review, and by implication JCR , is broader analyses of the historical and institutional forces that have shaped the marketplace and the consumer as a social category e. One likely reason for the paucity of macro-level analyses of consumer culture is the difficulty of undertaking such work in a journal-length article.

One way to encourage and stimulate more encompassing historical research would be for consumer researchers to give greater credence to books and the JCR monograph series. One specific form of this research that we would like to encourage strives to tell cultural history through the commodity form broadly defined. These works not only highlight the sociohistorical significance of consumption generally but also often have an impact on broader academic and social conversations concerned with marketing's effects on society e.

For example, Schlosser's Fast Food Nation uses the ubiquity of fast food consumption to critically analyze the socioeconomic and cultural forces that have transformed the nature of work, leisure, and family relationships in post—World War II America. Holt shows how longitudinal changes in advertising campaigns for iconic brands, such as Bud and Mountain Dew and their respective failures and successes , are related to specific cultural tensions and economic anxieties that dominate particular historical moments.

Finally, Firat and Dholakia provide a sweeping historical panorama that delineates how a new kind of consumer has emerged from the sociocultural ferment in the transformative shifts from modernity to postmodernity. Moving to a more mid-range level of analysis, an intriguing issue, still in its theoretical infancy, concerns the moral constitution of consumption and the nature of moral dilemmas and challenges that the commercialization of everyday life, including its most intimate moments, pose for consumers Belk and Coon ; Borgmann ; Hochschild ; Illouz A second promising area is the temporality of consumption experiences, a topic instigated through interest in nostalgia Holbrook and reinvigorated under the rubric of retroscapes and retrobranding Brown and Sherry ; Brown et al.

Implicit to a number of recent CCT studies is the idea that servicescapes afford consumers different kinds of embodied temporal experiences, enabling museum patrons to revel in the languid experience of aesthetic appreciation Joy and Sherry or ESPN Zone patrons to feel the dizzying rush of a rapid fire, adrenalin-infused sport spectacle Kozinets et al.

These studies point to a need to explore consumer understandings of history and temporality more generally. A third promising sphere for further inquiry is the globalization of consumer culture and its manifestations in less-developed countries Arnould ; Bonsu and Belk and those characterized by transitional economies Belk et al. Finally, building on the idea of cultural capital Allen ; Holt , CCT could readily pursue a culturally informed resource-based theory of the customer that dovetails in some ways with resource-based theories of the firm Hunt and Morgan , Such a consumer-centric theory would investigate how customers allocate economic, social, and cultural capital resources between competing brand and service offerings and use them to enrich their endowments.

This theoretical innovation could move us toward a theory of customer value cocreation Vargo and Lusch What about the relationship between CCT and other consumer research traditions? The expansion of CCT coincides with increasing concerns over the field's fragmentation and the seeming lack of a common theoretical vernacular and agreed-upon motivating problems and questions to bind consumer researchers together in a common, distinguishing intellectual project. These concerns follow from a decidedly modernist construction of science and the concomitant idea that a scientific field progresses by developing a unified system of knowledge around a common domain of interest e.

From this standpoint, disciplinary diversity is a problem because it fosters differing camps, each pursuing their own particularistic questions, whose knowledge claims are unlikely to coalesce.

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In this way, consumer research threatens to become a tower of Babel. In contradistinction to this angst-inducing allegory, we suggest that the field is enhanced by the presence of multiple conversations. Consumer research is a vital and maturing field of inquiry, not because it has steadily advanced toward a singular body of theory but rather because it can generate and sustain multiple theoretical conversations, each speaking to distinctive theoretical questions.

To anthropomorphize a bit, this polyvocal fluency makes the consumer research field a more interesting and creative conversationalist and enables it to forge greater and more varied linkages to other branches of social science, governmental and public policy agencies, and the world of management. Furthermore, the presence of different conversations does not preclude cross-paradigmatic engagement and enrichment. By virtue of sharing a common disciplinary matrix, broad topical concerns link different consumer research traditions and enable consumer researchers to poach and cross-fertilize ideas, methods, and contexts from a variety of theoretical conversations that differentially address core topics.

In prior work, we characterized the cross-fertilization that can arise from this kind of conversational interaction and poaching as retextualization Thompson, Stern, and Arnould , whereby theoretical insights and constructs from one paradigmatic conversation are reconceptualized and reworked in relationship to a different paradigmatic vernacular.

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Through retextualization, CCT research has reframed and revitalized core analytic constructs, such as brand loyalty Fournier , McAlexander et al. Such a disciplinary situation may not always be comfortable or comforting, but it can be energizing, thought provoking, and inspiring, and it can provide a fertile intellectual ground for theoretical innovations and advancements. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

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Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Craig J. Arnould is E. Most of all, we thank our many colleagues who have inspired our thinking on matters of culture and consumption. Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract This article provides a synthesizing overview of the past 20 yr. Table 1. Open in new tab. Anderson, Paul F. Mike Featherstone, London: Sage, — Arnold, Stephen J. Arnould, Eric J.

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