Module Catalogue 2021/22

SOC2067 : Consumer Cultures: An Anthropological Perspective

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Emma Clavering
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment

N/A

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment

N/A

Aims

The notion of ‘consumer culture’ may at first sound peculiarly contemporary, yet people have expressed themselves and their position in the social world through material artefacts and everyday consumption practices throughout the history of humankind. It is not surprising, then, that this is an enduring area of interest for researchers studying social arenas as varied as, for example, the use and exchange of ritual goods, and social and cultural values ascribed to lifestyle choices. The module introduces students to the wide range of literature on cultures of consumption over time and across diverse societies. It seeks to provide an overview of the main debates informing current anthropological interest, alongside key sociological texts where relevant. It will draw on key theoretical insights to help reflect on consumer cultures, such as how things and people are classified, ways in which artefacts speak to us through shared signs and symbols, and perceptions of social and cultural identities.

The study of consumer culture encourages us to consider the interplay across local and global spheres of life, as well as aspects of everyday lives at the individual, family, and community level. As such it helps contextualise intimate decisions, and provide an active social arena in which key theoretical debates can be critically assessed. This complexity will be examined in detail through case studies based on the module’s main intersecting themes, including ritual and celebration, family worlds, popular culture and social media, consuming health and the body, virtual/digital consuming, and ethical choices.

The main objectives are:
To introduce students to the context and variety of current anthropological debates on consumer practices.
To develop students’ understanding of key sociological theories around cultures of consumption.
To explore, through case studies, concepts of social and cultural value.
To encourage students’ critical reading of ethnographic texts and media images.
To develop students’ skills to argue logically and analytically both orally in group discussions, and in writing for their assessments.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module introduces students to a wide range of literature on consumer cultures. It seeks to provide an overview of the main debates informing current anthropological interest alongside key sociological texts where relevant. It will draw on key theoretical insights to help reflect on consumer cultures, such as how things and people are classified, ways in which artefacts speak to us through shared signs and symbols, and perceptions of social and cultural capital.

The study of consumer culture encourages us to recognise intersections and tensions across and between local and global spheres of life, as well as aspects of everyday lives at the individual, family, and community level. As such it helps contextualise intimate decisions, and provide an active social arena in which key theoretical debates can be critically assessed. This complexity will be examined in detail through a range of relevant ethnographic case studies.

Indicative content:
Lectures and seminars are provided on a number of interrelated themes and theories around material culture and consumer practices.
Themes include: gift-giving, ritual and celebration; popular culture and social media; family worlds, caring and provisioning; classifying food as edible (sanctioned) or inedible (taboo); consuming health and the body; virtual/digital consuming; and, ethical choices and questions.
This module will take a critical and sensitive look at each theme to examine what may be displayed (promoted) and what may be hidden (risky).
Evidence from ethnographic materials will be used in each case study to reflect on these themes in depth. This will include material from the UK, Central Europe, North and South America, Nepal and Central Africa.
There are up to 4 hour-long films shown across the module to exemplify key themes.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of this module students should be able to:

Be familiar with a range of anthropological and sociological literatures on material culture and consumer practices;
Comprehend key concepts relating to an understanding of the diversity of consumer culture, consumer identity, and local and global consumption;
Think critically about the multiple and complex ways in which people relate to their social world through artefacts, images, and everyday consumer practices;
Gain confidence handling ethnographic texts on consumer culture.

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of this module students should be able to:

Access and evaluate a wide range of material such as ethnographic texts, journal articles, and media resources;
Apply anthropological and sociological concepts to the study of consumer cultures;
Formulate and communicate scholarly arguments orally and in writing;
Be practiced in time-management, and interpersonal communication.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00PiP lectures
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Non synchronous, pre recorded lecture material, non timetabled
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1351:00135:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars delivered Synchronous online.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:00Timetabled PiP workshops to support assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery20:301:00Pip Drop-ins non-timetabled
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are intended to combine theoretical concepts with substantive material around anthropological and sociological understandings of consumption.

There are 4 x hour-long films students are invited to watch independently chosen to exemplify key themes. These will be included in seminar discussions where appropriate to encourage students to evaluate ways in which media resources compare to peer- reviewed academic texts.

Seminars are held every other week to pick up on a key theme. These are designed to provide students with structured tasks and readings. Students will be encouraged to discuss their analysis of key texts with their peers.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M502,000 words
Case study2M502.000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2MEssay Plan; optional
Case study2MCritical Review plan; optional
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The Essay allows the in-depth exploration of key theoretical insights introduced in the first half of the module. It will assess student knowledge of concepts, with a particular emphasis on local and global consumption practices.

The Case Study will build on the skills the level 2 students are starting to develop in their academic career. It will give students the opportunity to take a theme of their choice, and explore it in detail. This exercise requires them to engage with a range of relevant anthropological and sociological literature around their chosen case study, and to consider the relevance of this subject for the future.

Therefore, both assignments (Essay & Case Study) test learning outcomes with regard to both knowledge and skills.

Both assignments are preceded by formative assessment plans, which are optional for students.

Timetable

Past Exam Papers

General Notes

Original Handbook text:

Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2021/22 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2022/23 entry will be published here in early-April 2022. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.