Connoiseurship, Snobbery and Engagement: The Cultivation Trend’s Colonization of Mundane Consumption

Presenting the research project “Connoiseurship, Snobbery and Engagement: The Cultivation Trend’s Colonization of Mundane Consumption” at the centre for retail research, Lund University, 8 Dec 2014. The research group addresses the dynamic relationships between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings in relation to contemporary consumer movements. Consumers in Western culture have increasingly turned from high cultural to low cultural consumption categories to cultivate themselves. Traditionally low cultural products, such as bread and salt, engender important notions of status in contemporary society. In an attempt to understand this development – largely focused around middle-class consumers – we address nerds of all sort, investigate foodies, people obsessed about triathlons, and individuals working in food trucks as well as looking into specific product categories such as coffee. Project members Sofia Ulver Marcus Klasson Jon Bertilsson Carys Egan-Wyer Ulf Johansson All from Lund University

The Nordic Street Food Evolution: One Food Truck at a Time

The working paper “The Nordic Street Food Evolution: One Food Truck at a Time” was presented at the Association for Consumer Research Conference in Baltimore, MD, 23-26 Oct 2014.

How do markets change? An increasing amount of contemporary scholars has used the “market” as the unit of analysis. However, we need further empirical endeavours investigating who actually are initiating the dynamics and pushing the evolution of marketplace cultures. I attempt to add insights to contemporary market formation theory by investigating the new Nordic Street Food Movement. Initial findings from a 2-year ethnography in the Nordic street food movement suggest that marketplace cultures evolve incrementally in a co-produced coalition with consumers, entrepreneurs, media and policy makers.

Marcus Klasson, Lund University.

Canon of Classics

Attended the seminar “Canon of Classics” at The University of Southern Denmark, Odense.

Consumption is taking center stage as a subject of study in multiple disciplines, including sociology and anthropology among others.  Marketing and consumer research disciplines, along with economics, which had claimed consumption studies as their terrain, are both energized and challenged by this new interest in consumption.  The purpose of this workshop is to critically investigate some of the key classics that constitute the foundation for many of the current perspectives in consumer research. Authors covered during the seminar include but is not restricted to Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, Michel Foucault, Erving Goffman, Jürgen Habermas, Karl Marx, Marcel Mauss and Marshall Sahlins. The learning goals of the seminar are on the one hand to provide a basic academic education for doctoral candidates within some of the major founding texts behind the current work of consumer culture theorists. On the other hand, the goal is also to demonstrate the relevance of general and classical theory for the specific empirical projects and contexts of the doctoral students.

Therefore, the program includes three major types of tutoring: 1) lecturing from the faculty on the canon of classics, 2) dialogues where faculty and students elaborate on the relationship between the bodies of theory covered and specific applications in contemporary consumer research and the students’ own projects. The seminar covers classical works and authors within a multitude of disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, critical theory and philosophy.

Faculty: Søren Askegaard, Jeff B. Murray, Eric Arnould, Dannie Kjeldgaard, Matthias Bode, Benoît Heilbrunn, Per Østergaard and Craig J. Thompson.

What’s cooking? The different practices and meanings involved in the same consumption situation

Special Session accepted at the 2014 Consumer Culture Theory Conference in Helsinki. I will in cooperation with Susanna Molander (Stockholm University), Jakob Östberg (Stockholm University) and Sofia Ulver (Lund University) host the special session “What’s cooking? The different practices and meanings involved in the same consumption situation.”

Chair and Discussant
Dorthe Brogaard Kristensen, University of Southern Denmark

Cooking love: Mothering as a practice
Susanna Molander, Stockholm University, Sweden

Cooking men: The Gastrosexual practice of doing gender
Sofia Ulver, Lund University, Sweden
Marcus Klasson, Lund University, Sweden

Cooking to survive: Health practices in everyday cooking
Jacob Östberg, Stockholm University, Sweden

The practice perspective has recently invigorated theory building within the field of consumer culture theory by emphasizing the routinized aspects of consumption. These aspects have many times been overlooked by previous perspectives in the field that have focused more directly on aspects explicitly verbalized by consumers. We would argue, however, that the practice perspective has yet to reach its full potential. One of the weaknesses is that there has been relatively little discussion about how the definition of what constitutes a practice implicates the subsequent theory building. In this session we bring together three studies looking at the same consumption situation—namely cooking. It would be tempting to suggest, then, that we are studying the practice of cooking. We suggest instead that we are identifying three other practices that are entangled in the cooking situation, and that cooking is thus not necessarily a practice in itself but a consumption situation inviting a wide range of practices to take part of its offerings. By applying a practice perspective, our aim is to illuminate how radically different meaning making processes may take place around one and the same consumption situation. Thus, rather than looking at cooking as a particular practice in itself, governed by a fixed set of rules and regulations that consumers adhere to, we view it as a situation where different practices can be studied.

In Alan Warde’s (2005) version of practice theory consumption is rarely a practice in itself, but moments embedded in other practices with orientations towards certain ends that this consumption helps to accomplish. The approach hereby forces us to understand consumption through the logic of practices and makes it a point of departure to understanding the broader tacit social web of which consumption is a part. As a consequence the individual consumers are decentered and the practice as such becomes the focus of study. Thus, rather than focusing on the individual, it is the practice that organizes behavior and it is the practice that gives rise to perceived needs and wants. Consumers are mere carriers of the practice.

Our three papers look into how cooking can be part of distinctively different practices incorporating consumption in diverse ways to fulfill their ends. As consumers we are involved in an intricate web of multiple practices that guide our doings and sayings, including our thoughts and even emotions. Some of these practices might be more focused on a particular time and context bound activity, such as Nordic walking (Shove and Pantzar 2005). Other practices are vaguer, but still oriented towards certain goals that might serve as a higher order organizing many of the things we do, such as the practice of doing gender (cf. West and Zimmerman 1987) or the practice of capitalism (cf. Sewell 1992). Note, however, that we are not talking about dispersed practices not tied to any particular meaning and used across a range of areas of social life, but of complex forms of integrated practices, integrated primarily through a teleoaffective structure providing them with direction and meaning (Schatzki 1997).

We suggest that there is an hierarchy of practices that we engage in at each point in time and that some of these practices are such as described above, namely of a higher order – and what we call metapractices. These metapractices have the capacity to order the other practices that we are engaged in during a particular consumption situation. The three papers constituting this proposed session all use the context of cooking but identify three different metapractices at play. In paper 1 the author highlights how the metapractice of mothering use cooking as a way to express love and caring for others. In paper 2, the author brings forward how middle-class young men in an unusually gender equal part of the world use cooking to resist this leveling through the metapractice of doing gender. Finally, paper three looks at how the metapractice of doing health structures the entire cooking situation offering overarching goals that all other goals need to adhere to.


Nerdery, Snobbery and Connoisseurship: Developing conceptual clarity within the area of refined consumption

Competitive paper accepted at the 2014 Consumer Culture Theory Conference in Helsinki. I will be presenting the paper in the session “Engaged Fans” on Sat 28th of June.

As consumers in Western consumer culture have increasingly turned from high cultural to low cultural consumption categories to cultivate themselves, the meanings of the traditional and socio-cultural concepts used to represent different forms of consumer expertise have been blurred or altered. Drawing upon sociocultural literature on taste and distinction we attempt to provide theoretical clarity to the concepts of connoisseurship, snobbery, and nerdery; concepts that are often used interchangeably and without rigor in both (contemporary) popular and academic discourse. The outcome of our conceptual analysis is concretised using a semiotic square to illustrate how the concepts differ from each other. Our analysis suggests that the democratisation of consumption through the imprinting of status meanings upon traditionally illegitimate cultural objects may lead to the “bastardisation” of taste regarding those same illegitimate cultural categories – a performance formerly restricted to high culture.

Jon Bertilsson, Carys Egan-Wyer, Ulf Johansson, Marcus Klasson, Sofia Ulver

Centre for Retail Research

Performing in the role as audience editor for the inauguration of the Centre for Retail Research (Centrum för Handelsforskning) at Lund University. The opening ceremony of the centre will offer an interesting programme with speakers from both industry and academia. The interdisciplinary centre is collaborated between the School of Economics and Management, Faculty of Engineering and Campus Helsingborg at Lund University.

I have furthermore accepted to be an affiliated doctorate at the Centre for Retail Research.

For more information