2014-2015 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to announce
Symbolic Meanings of Consumption and their Implications for Inequality

Shelly Steward
(PhD Student, Sociology, UC Berkeley)

Friday, February 27, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hal
University of California, Berkeley
What happens when groups with competing symbolic understandings of their own consumption meet in a market? Through ethnographic observation and interviews, this project examines the development of symbolic meanings of consumption in two thrift stores in Portland, Oregon, and considers the significance of those meanings for inequality. Although coming to the same sites and frequently purchasing the same types of objects, two groups of consumers emerge with opposing understandings of their consumption. One group, the thrift-seekers, is motivated by a desire to find bargains. The other, the creativists, is motivated by its rejection of conventional retail stores. Applying this project to tourism studies more generally, how do different experiences of the same place coexist, compete, and relate to broader social relations?

Speaker Bio:
Shelly Steward is a PhD student in the sociology department at UC Berkeley, where she examines the intersections of economic inequality and the practices of everyday life. Her dissertation examines understandings of and attitudes toward wealth in today’s changing economy. Her past work has examined how different understandings of “nature” act as criteria of distinction in a winter resort town, and the symbolic meaning of home and neighborhood appearance. In addition to research, she is passionate about teaching theory and improving the educational experiences of undergraduates. Prior to coming to Berkeley, she was a science teacher in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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