Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts.

García Canclini, Néstor (2001) Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. University of Minnesota Press
In Consumers and Citizens, García Canclini suggests the necessity to consider how the changes in modes of consumption have altered the possibilities of citizenship in the Latin American context. Through several essays the author proposes a romanticized idea of citizenship and social movements in Latin America that struggle to survive by being redefined; people in mega-cities (particularly Mexico City) answer the questions on belonging, rights and interests traditionally located in the public sphere in the realm of private consumption.
This book belongs to the 1990s trend within anthropology, sociology and cultural studies on globalization, Americanization, multicultural identities and mass consumption, with a particular focus on the cultural industries. Some essays are quite pessimistic; the author exacerbates the ideas of disconnection, atomization and insignificance. Others propose the several policy measures that are needed in order to achieve new versions of citizenship.
As a whole, it is hard to find either answers or a creative reflection on the relationship between consumption and citizenship. This book is better at showing the methodological implications of doing research in contemporary Latin American urban sites and the need of interdisciplinary work. The author’s ability to gather and integrate data from the most varied sources –including literature, ethnography and continental surveys- is maybe its selling point.
This book is of interest for those anthropologists working on material culture of Latin America, as it works as a frame for contextualized research. It is well strong on studies and literature of that time and written from the insider perspective of one of the well reputed scholars in the region.
Marjorie Murray
PhD candidate Department of Anthropology, University College London

1 Comment

  1. I was really pleased to read your comments Marjorie. When I first read this book I thought I must have missed something, because it did not seem to be saying anything new about globalization and consumption. Yet everyone I met seemed to think Canclini was a striking new voice. Part of the problem here is the chasm between North and Latin American social sciences, and the lag in translation and publication. I suspect that while he was writing these essays, they were much fresher.
    I do think there is still a lot of important research and theorizing to be done on the changing relationships among consumption and the boundaries between public and private. I should mention that Frank Trentmann and I have begun a book series with Palgrave/Macmillan on Consumption and Public Life, which is explicitly concerned with the public politics of material culture. We are always on the lookout for good proposals.

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