Vol. 11, No. 1, December 2009

Heroin Chic, Poor Chic, and Beyond Deconstructionist Distraction
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

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Karen Bettez Halnon

Pennsylvania State University

While scattered examples of Poor Chic can be found historically in North America and Europe, the controversy of it, but never named generally as such, did not surface in any major way in public consciousness until the early 1990s.

Even during the 1970s, with the Sex Pistols' frontman Johnny Rotten (named for his decaying teeth) singing about privileged people taking a "holiday in other people's misery" and the ironic subsequent fashion of torn up and tattered punk clothes (worn by Rotten originally as necessity), poverty chic was still in a relative state of immaturity.

It was not until the 1990s that public awareness increased, with moral and aesthetic critics condemning Seattle’s “grunge” music, with its “dirty” guitar sound and angst-filled lyrics, most notable in the mainstream by Kurt Cobain’s band Nirvana that climbed the charts in 1991, and by Pearl Jam, shortly thereafter.


> Calls for Papers, Announcements,
& Conference Calendar
> Books of Note

On Feminism in the Age of Consumption

Nicki Lisa Cole
University of California, Santa Barbara

Alison Dahl Crossley
University of California, Santa Barbara

“The largest growing economic force in the world isn't China or India -- it's women. The earning power of women globally is expected to reach $18 trillion by 2014 -- a $5 trillion rise for current income, according to World Bank estimates. That is more than twice the estimated 2014 GDP of China and India combined” (Voigt 2009)

The above quote from a recent article posted on CNN.com, titled “Women: Saviors of the world economy?” reflects heightened attention to both the earning power and spending power of today’s women. Economists, product designers, and marketers are turning to women as the consumers who can perpetuate capitalist growth in this post-economic crisis moment. The FemmeDen, a group of women researchers who focus on the gendered implications of product design, write in one of their online publications, “Why is gender important? Women’s continuing evolution combined with their increasing buying power has created an explosive business opportunity in the consumer products industry.” They then point out that women in the U.S., though once “powerless,” are now “powerful,” in that they buy or influence eighty percent of consumer decisions (FemmeDen 2009a).

This heightened attention to U.S. women’s purchasing power comes at a time when discourses that link women’s independence to consumption abound in popular culture. Today’s television line-up, heavy in “reality” programming focused on celebrities and wealthy women, serves this intersection to millions of viewers on an everyday basis. Wealth and the ability to consume are routinely celebrated and held up as exemplars of the most current iteration of the American Dream, which today is illustrated as a lifestyle display rather than a particular set of achievements.


Lost in Transformation? How Class-Based Emotions Shape Fashion Consumption Practice

by Karen Rafferty

Dublin Institute of Technology

In the last couple of decades, transformations in the fashion industry and marketplace have ignited debate about the nature of social class relations today.  Fashion writer Dana Thomas (2007) illustrates how, since the mid 1980s, many luxury fashion houses passed brand management from the family kin to external CEOs, who started to aggressively target the mass, and primarily middle class, markets.  This move was to alter the intrinsic nature of the industry, having been centred upon visually differentiating the elite from subordinate classes for hundreds of years.  In the pursuit of expanding profit, quality and craftsmanship were compromised so lower-priced product lines could make the point of entry for luxury fashion consumption more accessible across class fractions.


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