Vol. 12, No. 2, May 2011

So-called Black Ghetto Cool: From the Color Line to the Colorblind
Sam Binkley
newsletter designer
Emerson University

Dan Cook
Rutgers University- Camden

George Ritzer
long-time, dedicated supporter
University of Maryland-College Park

Mike Ryan
listserv manager
University of Maryland—College Park

Statement of Purpose
The organizing group for the Consumer Studies Research Network seeks to foster dialogue and debate among those who are interested in and concerned about the place of goods and commodities in social life. These interests and concerns may range from the poetics of micro/personal identity formation to the identity politics of gendered, raced and classed display, from historical work on the rise of consumer culture to a critique of Nike advertising, from investigations of typical places of consumption to the study the dynamics of globalization and urban areas. Individuals affiliated with the Consumer Studies Research Network desire to bring to the fore, in their own ways, the depths to which commodities and a market logic have come to pervade virtually all forms of social life and social interaction. The primary goal is to begin to engage in an interchange.


Dan Cook
Consumer Studies Research Network
Rutgers University
405-7 Cooper Street
Camden, NJ 08102
phone: 856-225-2816
fax: 856-225-6435

Have something to say? Send in essays, comments, letters, reviews, observations for the next Newsletter.

For more information, visit
the CSRN website @


Karen Bettez Halnon

Penn State Abington

The Black Ghetto in the 1960s. During the late 1960s the nation was in the midst of social upheaval and generational struggle. Born into a more affluent society than ever before achieved, many youth spurned the superficiality of material comfort. Rebelling precisely against the deceptive tranquility of suburban life and self-interested materialism, rebellious hippies cast them off as a foreclosure to the possibilities of getting in touch with nature and of the self in community with others. Aiding the quest for something deeper and more unifying were mind-expanding drugs such as marijuana and LSD, experiments in communal living, membership in collectivist-minded groups, and occupying the streets in massive numbers to protest against a war that for many signified a “close link between empire, class, and race; between imperial wars, wealth inequality, and racist practices" (West 304, 57). Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers protested that the Vietnam War, involving an estimated 5 million Vietnamese deaths by the time the conflict was over, was not the only unjust war. There was also an unjust war being waged at home. The domestic war was between White racists endeavoring to hold African Americans back with segregation, White supremacist groups, and hate words versus those who, sometimes with the sacrifice of their lives, insisted on equality for all.

The “Whites Only” lunch counters, bathrooms, water fountains, and racially segregated places on the bus signified much of what was wrong. But the Black Ghetto was the most visible symbol of inequality. For many in the 1960s and into the 1970s, racially segregated urban centers were the greatest impediment to breaking down barriers, abolishing the color line, cashing a replenished ‘blank check,” or achieving a society where people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the measure of their character. Following the assassination of leaders who brought hope—President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King in 1968—the country exploded. 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in U.S. history, was one of mass rebellion inside the ghettos of Washington, D.C., Chicago, Newark, Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, Kansas City, and Watts.


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The Promise and Contradictions of Ethical Consumerism

Nicki Lisa Cole
University of California, Santa Barbara

I was enrolled in a graduate seminar focused on the sociology of knowledge, and we were in the midst of reading Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978). I had been thinking a lot about the role of European travel narratives crafted during the colonial era in formulating frameworks of difference, particularly racial difference. As I read the text on the coffee packaging that described the producers and their communities, and regarded the images presented with the text, it occurred to me that I was reading a contemporary (neo)colonial travel narrative. This experience piqued my interest enough that I conducted a focused content analysis of packaging and pamphlets that I found in the coffeehouses around Santa Barbara. One of the key findings of this brief study was the deployment of a discourse of ethics in framing the relationship between the coffee company, the consumer, and producers, for much of what I found around me was coffee coded as “Fair Trade” or “socially responsible.” Thus began the research of my dissertation, titled, “‘You’re not just buying coffee’: Ethical consumerism in the global age.”

I had been aware of the concept of “fair trade” since the early 2000s, and had supported it through coffee and other purchases. From 2002 to 2004 I worked across the street from a 10,000 Villages store where I regularly purchased gifts. I remember feeling good about shopping there, and proudly shared with the recipients the information provided about the producers of the goods, and how the purchase had helped them and their communities. At the time I was committed to the concept of ethical consumerism and the promise of consumer-driven social change.


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