Vol. 7, No. 1, December 2005

The Limits and Possibilities of Branding Culture in Handicraft Economies
Sam Binkley
newsletter designer
Emerson University

Dan Cook
University of Illinois-Champaign

George Ritzer
all-around great guy
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
103 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
phone: 217-265-5509
fax: 217-244-3348
email: dtcook@uiuc.edu
Have something to say? Send in essays, comments, letters, reviews, observations for the next Newsletter.

Visit our Web site

by Frederick F. Wherry
University of Pennsylvania

Large retailers such as Pier-1 Imports, World Market, and Ten Thousand Villages, to name but a few, have emerged as major players in the market for handicrafts. According to the database of artisanal products maintained by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in 2003 the global export of wooden furniture generated $US 16.6 billion; ceramics, $US 1.4 billion; candles and tapers, $1.4 billion; and artificial flowers, $US 1.3 billion. Although handicraft artisans constitute a significant segment of the world economy, little is known about how the different countries these artisans populate gain a comparative advantage from branding culture. I argue that the conventional understanding that "those who can, do" fails to explore the connection between private matters (talent, traditions, skill) and public issues (national orientations to different representations of culture) [Swidler 1986; Biggart and Guillen 1999].



Books of Note

Sage Discount Offer

The Dead Hand of Disney

by Susan Davis
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

It's a strange thing when a letter from the school principal arrives on lime green and aqua stationery. Stranger still when the postmark is Burbank, California, and the return address reads "Imagineer That!"But it was real. The communique trumpeted "Disney Channel is coming to our school to help spark our creativity" in a pre-packaged 90-minute assembly.

"Imagineer That! The Creativity Adventure" is designed to "help empower students to unleash their creative powers." It folds "an imagination skills building workshop" and a sighting of Disney Channel star Ricky Ullman into the middle-school day, and follows up with a celebratory evening "wrap party." Full participation is guaranteed by a chance to win a family vacation to (where else?) Walt Disney World. The principal described this hoopla as "a fantastic opportunity."

The "Disney Hand," as the corporate office that provided this opportunity is called, is devoted to extending Disney into every crevice of life, branding the company by creating emotional relationships with consumers. And our floundering, underfunded, overstressed public schools and their captive audiences provide the perfect gateway.




Markets as Social Imaginaries

Daniel Thomas Cook
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

I witnessed a most extraordinary social occasion a number of years ago. At my place of work located in a business office, I observed a number of women sitting in a semi-circle facing one woman in the center who was receiving gifts, one-by-one, from the others. With the opening of each present, a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhhs" of approval circulated through the crowd.

The extraordinary aspect of this event was that many of the gifts were being given to someone who was not present
--or, at least, someone who was not present in the same way the rest of us were present...