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Commodity Consumption and the Formation of Consumer Culture
ANTH 277
Fall 2012
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: FGSS 278

The commodity form is not restricted to capitalism, but the development of capitalism has involved its continual extension to ever more realms of social life. Capitalist development has also involved the formation of a consumer culture that defines commodity consumption as central to identity formation and notions of the good life. A multistranded critique of these processes unfolds at the levels of popular thought as well as high theory. Commodity production has been portrayed as alienating, mystifying, and dehumanizing, oriented toward profit versus human life, while commodity consumption has been charged with homogenizing, distracting, individualizing, and depoliticizing consumers.
In this course we will take these critiques seriously, but we will also seek to unsettle a number of the binaries they presuppose, such as production/consumption, commodity/gift, and control/liberation. Designed as a conversation between a historical archaeologist and a cultural anthropologist, the course will use particular cases drawn from a number of historical periods and societies to explore commodification as a contradictory and contested process. We will suggest that the increased access of consumers to commodities and to commercial spaces can have both enabling and limiting effects, and often has both at the same time. Specific topics to be considered include the rise of modern advertising, the development of department stores and malls as classed and gendered spaces, the postwar celebration of domestic consumption and its entanglement with ideals of the family, the social dynamics of taste and style, the commodification of the body, the growth of fast food and restaurants in the U.S., and the promotion of ethical consumption. The course will (weather permitting) include the option of a field trip to a supermarket or mall. Students are encouraged to develop their personal interests in consumer culture and commodities in final research papers.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS ANTH
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ANTH-CapModern)(ANTH-MatCul/Tem)(ANTH-Perf/Rep/I)(ANTH-Prod/Cons)(SISP-Anth Conc)
Past Enrollment Probability: 75% - 89%

Last Updated on APR-19-2014
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