95729 - Consumer Culture (1) (Lm)

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students acquire a critical understanding of the historical development of consumer capitalism, the fundamental elements of contemporary sociological theories of consumer action and the main issues related to the politics of consumer culture. They are able to consider how theories work in practice, by addressing key contemporary empirical phenomena in the sphere of consumption, with particular attention to social boundaries and social identities, commercial institutions and the new challenges posed by environmental issues and the process of globalization/localization.

Course contents

This unit aims at providing a theoretically informed sociological understanding of contemporary consumer cultures and practices. While adopting an interdisciplinary outlook, it mainly deals with the sociology of consumption, concentrating on contemporary social phenomena of global relevance. The unit starts by discussing the historical development of so-called consumer capitalism, highlighting the relevance of urbanization, colonialism, changes in social stratification (class, gender) and international commerce. It then focuses on the most important theories of consumer action, considering how economics, sociology and anthropology have provided several distinctive perspectives on the functions, meanings, and mechanisms of consumption. It finally considers the politics of consumer culture: it thus addresses cultural industries as a vehicle for hegemonic views of the “consumer”, commercially mediated spaces as institutional contexts for a variety of dominant or alternative consumer practices and identities, and the process of globalization/localization as realized through the global standardization of commodity chains and alternative, locally grounded market circuits.

Attending students will be asked to participate in seminars to present and discuss the reading material as illustrated in the bibliography.


Attending Students will study:

Sassatelli, R. (2007) Consumer Culture, Sage

Plus the following (available in the course resources):

Goffman, E. (1979) Gender Advertisement, Harper & Row.

Hochschild, A. R. (1999) The Commercialization of Intimate Life, University of California Press, Chap. 1-3.

Kuehn, K. M. and Parker, S. (2021)One of the blokes: Brewsters, branding and gender (in)visibility in New Zealand’s craft beer industry; Journal of Consumer Culture, 21, 3, 519–538.

Kohrs, K. and & Gill, R. (2021) Confident appearing: Revisiting Gender Advertisements in contemporary culture in The Routledge Handbook of Gender, Language and Sexuality (ed. Angouri, J. and J. Baxter), Routledge, London.

Kotzé, J. and Antonopoulos G. A. (2021) Boosting bodily capital: Maintaining masculinity, aesthetic pleasure and instrumental utility through the consumption of steroids, Journal of Consumer Culture, 21, 3, 683–700.

McRobbie, A. (2008) Young Women and Consumer Culture, Cultural Studies, 22, 5, 531-550.

Nixon, S. & Crewe, B. (2004) Pleasure at Work? Gender, Consumption and Work‐based Identities in the Creative Industries, Consumption Markets & Culture, 7:2,129-147.

Zayer, L.T., Sredl, K., Parmentier, M-A. & Coleman, K. (2012) Consumption and gender identity in popular media: discourses of domesticity, authenticity, and sexuality, Consumption Markets & Culture, 15:4, 333-357.


Attending students are required to take the exam by the summer session 2023.



Useful reading to complement the exam material (not to be studied) is:

Casey, E. and Martens, L. (2007) Gender and Consumption, Routledge.

De Grazia, V. and Furlough, E. (1996) The Sex of Things, University of California Press.

Scanlon, J. (2000) The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader, New York University Press.

Also you may find lots of articles on various aspects of consumer culture in the following journals:









Non-attending students will study:

Hochschild, A. R. (1999) The Commercialization of Intimate Life, University of California Press.

Sassatelli, R. (2007) Consumer Culture, Sage.

Sassatelli, R. (ed) (2019) Italians and Food, Palgrave.

Stillerman, J. (2015) The Sociology of Consumption, Polity.


The program is valid for AY 2022/23.

Teaching methods

The course will be organized through lectures with the help of Powerpoint. During each lesson, topics for discussion will be proposed to students and active participation will be encouraged. The course will also entail semianar sessions specifically dedicated to presentation and group discussion of some of the relevant readings to which attending students are required to participate.

Assessment methods

Oral exam on the entire program as specified above, both for attending and non-attending students. 

Students who participate in the seminars and attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending,

Proper language and the ability to critically speak about the books' content will lead to a good/excellent final grade

Acceptable language and the ability to resume the books' content will lead to a sufficient/fair grade.

Insufficient linguistic proficiency and fragmentary knowledge of the books' content will lead to a failure in passing the exam.

Teaching tools

Powerpoint slides.

Office hours

See the website of Roberta Sassatelli