Anthropology | Globalization & Consumer Culture
E618 | 0423 | Wilk


The world is in the grip of unprecedented social and cultural changes, as
world trade in consumer goods begins a new phase of expansion. Global
communications media and cheap air travel have reduced the costs of
cross-cultural connections of all kinds, boosting television, tourism and
emigration to new levels. At the same time, following the collapse of the
Eastern Bloc, capitalism has become more pervasive, less
nationally-limited and more powerful all over the world.

Something important is happening, and we are only beginning to understand
what the effects will be on our lives and on the knots of shared identity
and practice that anthropologists have always called "cultures." One
important dimension of this global change is the dramatic increase in the
consumption of goods manufactured, designed and/or marketed by firms based
in Europe, North America and Japan. The dramatic global increase in the
consumption of "northern" goods has been perceived, in many places, as the
greatest threat to the continued existence of local traditions, local
cultures and local economic autonomy.

This course will take a critical look at global consumerism as a practice
and at the discourse (both popular and academic) about consumerism. We
will also read some current theory from transnational studies,
anthropology, and cultural studies that can provide tools for evaluating
and understanding consumerism.  We will concentrate on approaches that
seem ethnographically fruitful, in other words, ways of thinking about
consumption that can be put into practice in the interpretation of actual
case studies.