Vol. 6, No. 2, May 2005
Social Dimensions of Shopping in
Santiago, Chile

Sam Binkley
newsletter designer
Emerson University

Dan Cook
University of Illinois-Champaign

George Ritzer
all-around great guy
University of Maryland-College Park

Todd Stillman
listserv manager
University of Maryland—College Park

Statement of Purpose
The organizing group for Consumers, Commodities and Consumption 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 Consumers, Commodities and Consumption 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.

Contact the CCC:
Contact the Consumers, Commodities and Consumption Special Interest Group at the American Sociological Association.

Write to Dan Cook, CCC Newsletter
103 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
phone: 217-265-5509
fax: 217-244-3348
email: dtcook@uiuc.edu
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by Joel Stillerman

Grand Valley State University

Recent studies of U.S. and Latin American cities contend that new patterns of retail development undermine the public character of metropolitan areas. Shopping malls, big box discount stores, brand name boutiques, and tourist-oriented shopping districts undermine public space in two ways: they exclude poor citizens through aggressive policing, surveillance and architectural design that hinders pedestrian access; and they discourage social interactions among shoppers (Satterthwaite 2001, Zukin 1995, Lofland 1998, Gottdiener 1997, Crawford 1992, Low 2000, Bromley 1998, Caldeira 2000). While this literature identifies important aspects of retail entrepreneurs' strategies and goals, it misses two important dimensions of retail settings: the heterogeneity of the retail sector as a whole, and the creative and unanticipated ways that consumers use and understand these spaces (works that do explore consumers' experiences and practices include Belk et al. 1988, Sherry 1990, Sandikci and Holt 1998. Miller et al. 1998).


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Confidence Games on Canal Street:
The Market for Knockoffs in New York City

by Vince Carducci
New School for Social Research

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in May, a well-dressed woman in her late 60s is shopping on Canal Street in New York City. She is with what appears to be her granddaughter, a girl of 10 or 12. The woman is looking at leather handbags being sold out of a large black plastic trash bag by an Asian vendor at the corner of Canal and Greene Streets. The woman looks at different color bags--black, blue, red, and white--slinging them over her shoulder, turning one way and then other, asking the child's opinion of each. After a bit of imaginary play as to what the various bags might look like while being carried, she selects the white one. The handbag features the distinctive diagonal stitching and opposing interlocked double Cs of the Chanel trademark design. The woman haggles with the vendor, eventually handing over a $20 bill. (A comparable handbag at the Chanel boutique on Fifth Avenue uptown costs well over $1000.) With the new purse safely tucked away in a small plastic bag, the woman takes up the child's hand and they go off in search of ice cream.




Gearheads Among the Eggheads
By Diane Barthel-Bouchier
Stony Brook University

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize for criticism went, not to an architecture, music, or film critic, as is usual, but to Dan Neil, an automobile critic for the Los Angeles Times. Some members of the Art Establishment howled with outrage, suggesting that cars were merely utilitarian objects that could be reviewed rather than "critiqued", and that they might as well give out Pulitzers for writing about kitchen utensils!

This award poses several interesting sociological questions. One concerns the difference, if there is any, between product reviews and "serious criticism." Sociologists of art recognize the role of criticism in establishing artistic reputations (Lang and Lang 1990): clearly, it also helps create reputations for products. Scholars still cite Roland Barthes 1957 essay in Mythologies in which he compared the Citroen DS 19 to "a great Gothic cathedral ... the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists"(1993(1957)). Great review, but wrong on one point: the designer of the DS 19 was Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni, assisted by Pierre Franchiset.