Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Consumption Markets & Culture

For a Special Issue on

Poetics of Consumption

Manuscript deadline
01 September 2024

Cover image - Consumption Markets & Culture

Special Issue Editor(s)

Jonatan Södergren, Independent Researcher
[email protected]

Ileyha Dagalp, Stockholm Business School
[email protected]

Pilar Rojas-Gaviria, University of Birmingham
[email protected]

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Poetics of Consumption

The hedgehog is the animal that can teach us the most about consumption. French poststructuralist Jacques Derrida (1995) compares the act of writing a poem to a hedgehog thrown onto the highway, “absolute, solitary, rolled up in a ball” (p. 289), exposing itself to death and at the same time protecting itself. In other words, poetry is “this thing which in the same stroke exposes itself to death and protects itself” (p. 293). Derrida’s poor hedgehogs can teach us a thing or two about consumption, especially about those ambivalent experiences where consumers simultaneously encounter conflicting emotions.

Consumer culture theorists have tried their hand at writing poems, which the regular poetry session feature of the CCT Conference serves as clear evidence of. Even the Consumer Odyssey of the mid-80s is named after Homer’s epic poem (Belk 1987). As Brown (2014) points out, “poetry’s too important to us to be left alone” (p. 5). Indeed, his rebranded Journal of Customer Behaviour indicates a growing interest in poetry in our field.

Poetry has had a role in consumer research since the writings of Barbara B. Stern (1990, 1991). Sherry and Schouten (2002) used their own experiences as ‘researcher-poets’ to illustrate how the writing and close reading of poetry can take us directly to the heart of consumption. This research stream has focused on how poetry can be incorporated in research to represent consumers differently (Bhogal-Nair 2022; Canniford 2012; Preece et al. 2022; Rojas-Gaviria and Canniford 2022; Takhar 2020, 2021; Tonner 2019; Wijland 2011). For example, Rojas-Gaviria (2021) developed Heidegger’s ideas on the philosophy of poetry to understand identity construction among consumers living with Alzheimer’s. This work unveils a promising area to further understand the notion of consumer poetising.

Stern (in Carlson, Grove, and Stafford 2005) mentions that while advertising has been described as the poetising of consumer goods (our italics), questions remain as to what is meant by a poem in advertising text. “The apparatus of literary criticism,” Brown (1998) points out, “has yet to be extensively applied outside the advertising arena” (p. 25). More recently, poetic and lyrical approaches have been used to explore brand storytelling (Wijland 2011; Wijland and Brown 2018). Extending Stern’s (1998) textual approach from the advertising domain and Rojas-Gaviria’s (2021) work on identity to consumer culture, we welcome submissions that address the enactment of poetic elements in consumption. In other words, with this Special Issue we want to celebrate, recognise, and amplify the voices of those consumer researchers who are inspired by philosophical ideas about poetry and literary theory more broadly.

We believe that poetry would be a welcome addition to Hirschman’s (1983) guidelines for humanistic inquiry in marketing research. Consumer poetising can, for example, be found in contexts such as street art (Visconti et al. 2010), consumer movements (Chatzidakis et al. 2021), and myth making (Zanette et al. 2022). For Linton Kwesi Johnson, the British dub poet and activist, poetry is the cultural side of politics (British Library 2015). As Downey (2015) has shown us, poetic inquiry is useful to study consumer vulnerability as it captures emotional intensity, hopelessness, liminality, voicelessness, and self-transformative realities attendant to those experiencing vulnerability. Likewise, Bettany’s (2022) reflections on traumatic customer experiences, drawing on her own cancer treatment, suggests that several consumption contexts may reasonably serve as the subject of poetry. From Édouard Glissant’s (1997) Poetics of Relation, where he suggests a poetic approach to subaltern identity, to contemporary poet Ocean Vuong’s (2019) proposition that tension between optimism and hurt may result in ‘queer okayness’ (Paris Review 2019), it has been demonstrated that theories around poetry are especially useful when studying consumption practices among marginalised consumers, as poetry can help us better understand their vulnerabilities.

Derrida (2008) revisits his hedgehog ten years later, admitting that his inspiration came from a reading of Lewis Carroll. More precisely, he remembers the Queen’s croquet ground in Alice in Wonderland where the balls were live hedgehogs. His conclusion that “thinking concerning the animal, if there is such a thing, derives from poetry” (p. 7) seems to resonate with the growing interest in neo-animism in marketing (Arnould 2022). More precisely, Derrida (2008) argues that what separates us as humans from other animals is our ability to feel ashamed by our own nudity; it is from this shame that poetry developed.

For the ancient Greeks, poetry was a source of both intense pleasure and bewitching enchantment. Aristotle (1996), whose Poetics has been massively influential on the course of literary theory and criticism, examined how plot and character were used in Greek tragedy to produce pity and fear in the audience, and why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process through catharsis. In the Romantic era, British poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats and Lord Byron sought to translate humanity and its relation to nature in poetic form, often focusing on themes such as imagination. In the 20th century, the ‘poetic avant-garde’ questioned traditional axioms such as consistency of character or the need for a plot. For example, Francis Picabia (2012), self-described funny guy and anti-artist par excellence, disregarded literary conventions and anticipated the dada movement through his use of provocation. Pierre Reverdy (2014), whose juxtaposition of verse and prose laid the groundwork for both cubism and surrealism, saw the poetic domain as an ‘interior drama’ filled with emotional and spiritual richness. And ‘literary terrorist’ Tristan Tzara (2016, p. 39) wrote in his manifesto that in order to make a dadaist poem, you need to

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Yet, questions remain as to how these works, and the various perspectives on poetics they manifest, can be used to advance theory on consumption. In keeping with the purpose of the Special Issue, we welcome manuscripts that contain poems, but will not consider only-poem submissions. We especially favour conceptual and empirical work that applies philosophical theory on poetry to consumer research.

Possible research topics include, but are not limited to:

● How poetry in general can be used to interpret consumer behaviour

● Consumption practices studied from the angle of specific poems or poets

● The enactment of poetic elements such as plot, drama, character, and catharsis in consumption

● Poetising among marginalised consumers and/or collectives of consumption

● Intersections between a poetic paradigm and neo-animism in market capitalism

● Reflections on how poetry differs from other types of humanistic inquiry in marketing research

● How the marketisation and consumption of poetry can provide insights to consumer research

● Poetic approaches to brand storytelling

● How elements of the ‘poetic avant-garde’ can be used to question traditional axioms such as consistency of character or the need for a plot in consumers’ identity projects

Informal queries regarding guest editors’ expectations or the suitability of specific research topics should be directed to the Special Issue Editors at the following e-mail address: [email protected].

The closing date for submissions is 1 September 2024.