"What happens to commodities when they cross cultural borders?" Howes' recent edited volume, Cross-Cultural Consumption, sets out explicitly to answer this very question. Through a diverse and highly accessible set of collected papers, inspired and adapted from a special issue of Anthropogie et Sociitis on "Culture and Consumption," the reader finds an excellent introduction to the major themes in the anthropological approach to consumption. Situated squarely within the booming literature on the globalization of consumer society, the papers in this volume are expressly geared towards students of consumer studies from a range of disciplines. Howes makes his objectives clear - this book is actually intended as a teaching tool (p.8), which likely accounts for its notable clarity. Unlike many similar ventures, Howes et. al.'s pedagological approach allows him to openly pose a set of ethical questions by way of conclusion, challenging the reader to actively reflect on the issues raised in the various chapters.
That "cultures and goods stand in a relation of complex interdependence" (p.1), is by now a widely recognized feature of consumer studies in anthropology. Using this perspective as premise, the papers in this volume address the interface between the local and the global. Ulf Hannerz's popular "Creolization Paradigm" provides the appropriate framework for discussion. After rejecting the polar extremes of global homogenization and local fragmentation, Howes reifies another persistent dichotomy: that real and constructed distinction between the West and the rest'. Although the world of commodity flows presents multiple opportunities for various border crossings, it is this primary division...
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...early the full range of themes which make up the corpus of anthropological studies of consumption, the authors sacrifice to some extent the coherence a more limited project might have produced. Taken together, the chapters in this work are somewhat uneven in terms of quality and content. As it stands, the book requires a more comprehensive conclusion than that provided. However, despite the criticisms presented here, this volume on the whole does successfully accomplish its objectives. The issues raised are clear and comprehensive and the personal flavor of many of the chapters help make the issues more accessible and immediate to the first-time reader. I would certainly recommend it as an introductory reader for students interested in consumption.
Cross Cultural Consumption: Global Markets Local Realities David Howes, ed. London: Routledge; 1996
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