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Shopping for identity: articulations of gender, race and class by critical consumers

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This article discusses a study which explored shopping as a process of incidental adult learning about consumption, globalization and citizenship among self-identified critical shoppers in Vancouver, Canada. The author focuses on participants' comments about social identity, especially in terms of gender, race and class. Reflecting current concerns, many participants noted that the environment and (un)fair trade influenced their shopping practices, and helped them understand themselves in the context of a ‘multicultural’ society and a ‘globalized’ world. This article borrows from the jargon of municipal recycling programs, part of a critical consumption discourse, in outlining how participants' comments seem to ‘reduce,’ ‘reuse,’ and/or ‘recycle’ hegemonic notions of gender, race and class. Working from a neo-Gramscian perspective, the author uses this metaphor to explore both the tendency to reiterate an understanding of gender, race and class as essentialized characteristics and attempt to resist that simplistic understanding.
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Keywords: Gramsci; critical consumption; identity; informal adult learning; shopping

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Office of Graduate Programs, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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