Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Knowing Consumers

Actors, Images, Identities in Modern History

Date: February 27 - 28, 2004
Scientific Organizers: Heinz-Gerhard Haupt (Bielefeld), Frank Trentmann (London)

The international conference, organised by Prof. Heinz-Gerhard Haupt (Bielefeld und European University, Florenz) and Dr. Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College, London and ESRC-AHRB Cultures of Consumption programme), brought together an interdisciplinary group of 25 experts to discuss the growing centrality of the consumer as actor and identity in the modern and contemporary world. Panels compared European and non-European developments and brought together approaches from history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, marketing, and law. The conference developed three sets of perspectives and new insights. It explored the emergence and prominence of the consumer as a historical and contingent process that took different forms in different societies with different outcomes. It revealed the cultural, theoretical and political processes at work that shaped the consumer as a social group and political subject. It finally highlighted the relational position of consumers - a group that is defined and defines itself in relation with neighbouring, alternative identities and collective actors, such as those of the citizen, the producer, the housewife, the pleasure-seeker, the patriot, and the retailer.

The conference is organised by Prof. Heinz-Gerhard Haupt (Bielefeld) and Dr. Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College; ESRC-AHRB Cultures of Consumption research programme). It is co-funded by ZiF and the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Board (UK).

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