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Consumption, Class & Space: Performing the higher-income consumer in São Paulo, Brazil

By C. Castanheira


Historically, class identities were conceptualized as innate to the economic capital accumulated by social groups. In the past decades, social scientists have been questioning this assumption and have been conceptualizing consumption as the realm in which individuals construct and reproduce their identities. Geographers, in particular, have illustrated how identities and spaces are co-constituted through consumption practices. Their accounts, however, neglect the performativity of class identities. Performativity emphasises the embodied nature of social practice to account for the ways individuals unpredictably and/or unintentionally change the world by living in it. In Brazil, where exclusion has deepened the material, social and cultural differences between socioeconomic groups, the understanding of class identity as performative is especially valuable because it highlights how social inequality and spatial boundaries are constructed, negotiated and transformed through and in individuals’ everyday practices. This research aims to explore the performativity of class identities and the performativity of consumption spaces. To do so, this study investigates the performances of 18 higher-income women when they shop in consumption spaces associated with lower-income consumers and in consumption spaces associated with higher-income consumers in São Paulo, Brazil. The performativity of class identities and of consumption spaces is analysed in the ways higher-income individuals, through their performances, conform to and subvert the higher-income-consumer identity. The main conclusion of this study is that class identities are a performative enacted and transformed through individuals’ discursive, emotional, social and spatial practices within which individuals construct, negotiate and transform social and spatial boundaries

Topics: Geowetenschappen, class identity, consumption, performativity
Year: 2010
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