Vol. 11, No. 2, May 2010

Eat Well or Die: Nutrition Discourse
and the American Grocery Shopper
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 technical questions, please contact Monika Deppen Wood

For more information, visit
the CSRN website @


Shelley Koch

University of Kansas

Jamie Oliver is an internationally known chef and anti-obesity crusader. In a recent TEDtalk presentation (Technology, Entertainment, Design), Oliver argues that one of the culprits in our dysfunctional food system is the household. In one shot he looks directly at a young mother with her household’s weekly food choices piled on the table: pizza, corn dogs, cheesy casseroles, soda. Jamie Oliver peers at the table and then at this mother and says:

“I need you to know this is going to kill your children early. How does this make you feel?” The mother tearfully replies “I’m feeling sad and depressed. I want my kids to succeed in life… but I’m killing them.” Oliver’s response: “Yes you are. But we can stop that (TED Conferences, 2010).”

How does Oliver propose to stop this woman from killing her children? First, he would put a food ambassador in every store to teach her how to shop and how to cook convenient, healthy meals. Manufacturers and retailers would reform product labeling so she would have more information about her food choices. Big industry would put food education at the heart of their practice. Most importantly, she would teach her kids about food by cooking more at home, thereby helping them learn where their food comes from as well as life-long cooking skills.

To his credit, Oliver brings attention to the quality of food we provide our children in schools and the necessity of making significant changes for our children’s health through his “Food Revolution” series on American television. Although Oliver stresses local food, fruits and vegetables as the foundation of fighting obesity and healthy eating, the vehicle for making change is still individuals gaining more information on what and how to eat. This emphasis on individuals making better choices through education, especially in households, is problematic on many levels. Foundationally, a focus on education is a variant of the rational choice model that assumes a socially isolated actor who makes decisions in his own best interest. We know, however, from excellent ethnographic research that grocery shopping is as much about producing and reproducing relationships and family as it is about satisfying individual desires (DeVault 1991; Miller 1998).


> Announcements & Call for Papers
> ASA Consumer Sessions pdf icon
> Books of Note

Stuff White People Buy: Race, Consumption, and Group Identification

Ashley Josleyn French

Graduate Center, City University of New York

In January 2008 Los Angeles computer programmer Christian Lander decided to start a blog after a humorous conversation with a friend about things that they noticed that all of their white friends liked. Within the first month, the website received more than four million hits. The website Stuff White People Like (www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com) became so popular that Lander was offered a book deal by Random House to create his list into book format; it is reportedly the highest book deal offer made to a blogger who has not previously had any traditional publications. It was released in July 2008.

But not everyone appreciates Stuff White People Like (SWPL). Lander has been accused of being racist, despite the fact that he himself says he identifies with most of the characterizations of white people on his website. The website is very cynical, and for those that get it the website provides the feeling of being a part of a great inside joke.

The first time I was introduced to the SWPL blog was by a friend and fellow graduate student. He emailed a link to me for #81: Graduate School. The cynical and snarky description of graduate school for the white person details the lengths to which white people will go to prove their intelligence and perceived expertise, all the while hiding ineptitude and a fear of being found out not to be smart. The entry ends: It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated. They may have read more, but in no way does that make them smarter, more competent, or more likable than you. The best thing you can do is to act impressed when a white person talks about critical theorists. This helps them reaffirm that what they learned in graduate school was important and that they are smarter than you. This makes white people easier to deal with when you get promoted ahead of them.


CSRN website