Guide Advertising and Consumer Citizenship: Gender, Images and Rights

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  1. 1st Edition
  2. Advertising and Consumer Citizenship
  3. Advertising and Consumer Citizenship: Gender, Images, and Rights
  4. Advertising and Consumer Citizenship - E-bok - Anne M Cronin () | Bokus

It is commonly accepted that we live in a society increasingly dominated by consumerism, where what we are is expressed by what we buy, and that advertising is one of the primary means through which we absorb these meanings. In this study, Anne Cronin uses a close analysis of a variety of print advertising to highlight gender's organizing function in the contemporary culture of the image and to explore the articulation between the sexed, classed and racialized construction of the consumer which advertising creates and the figure of the citizen produced by contemporary political discourses of identity and belonging across Europe.

This should be of interest to students of consumption, media and the new politics of citizenship. Advertising knowledges. To bridge this gap, I will focus on the role of the imagination in processes of vision. Arjun Appadurai suggests that the imagination has long held a crucial role in society, but 6 Advertising and consumer citizenship recent cultural shifts have altered its significance in the everyday world.

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For Appadurai , the imagination is not a matter of individual psychology but, rather, a social practice. My concern in this book is to explore what this expanded role of the imagination may mean for the relationship between consumerism, advertising and citizenship. Focusing on the visual in advertising, I examine the shifting relations between political and cultural representation: that is, between representation in the sense of the political status of the citizen and sovereign subject, and representation in the sense of images.

1st Edition

Women have been imagined as the epitome of consumer ideals, the prototypical consumer, the active subject who is newly empowered in the public realm of consumer culture. Yet women have also been imagined as passive victims, cultural dupes, pseudo-subjects who are the epitome of the alienation and objectification inherent in consumer capitalism Bowlby , ; Felski ; Nava ; Radner The contractual relations which structure society such as the marriage, the employment and the citizenship contracts require that excluded groups participate in certain contracts.

Yet, paradoxically, they posit that these groups do not have the capacities required in order to initiate that participation. I relate these paradoxes to contemporary politics of identity. Here, a politics of national identity functions through the idea that all national cultures are equally different and differently equal. Yet are there nations which operate under subordinated terms? Using the concept of performativity, I explore the contradictions in contractual relations, citizenship and choice, focusing particularly on time and identities on an individual and national level.

Yet neatly segmented markets do not exist as social facts to be discovered and manipulated by advertising agencies. In Chapter 3, I discuss the methods and the findings of my study of British and French print advertisements sampled between and Here I outline why I selected print advertising in French and British popular magazines as the site of my analysis. I go on to discuss the findings of this analysis which revealed sharply drawn contrasts between the forms of textual address in advertisements targeted at male viewers and those targeted at female viewers.

In my study, reflexivity, innovation and a rapid turnover in campaigns are typical characteristics of male-targeted advertisements. This male gendering of innovation in advertising targeting is perhaps ironic, as consumer culture has consistently been figured as a feminine domain, and consumer culture itself is often presented as the epitome of cultural change.

In this chapter, I develop a theoretical analysis of the operation of reflexivity and innovation in visual address to explore these contradictions. I argue that irony is a key form of reflexivity and I maintain that irony can function as a useful site of study for the temporality of performativity — it is explicit in its address and holds together different levels of meaning and different temporalities in tension.

Advertising and Consumer Citizenship

I use an analysis of two typical advertisements in my study to chart the different gendered, classed and racialised forms of textual address. In Chapter 4, I extend this discussion of textual address to explore the processes of interpretation and vision. How do advertising images mediate meanings?

What is their relation to the viewer? I draw on the ideas of discursive transparency and knowledge, which I initially developed in Chapter 1, and explore how the constitution of selfhood can occur in visual performativity. I explore how this performative articulates with signifiers of social difference and with shifting frameworks of visibility and invisibility. I argue that an ironic visual address allows for some an interpretative flexibility which provides a privileged position from which to contest cultural belonging and rights. I use the concept of narrative to explore the complex relation between women viewers and images of women de Lauretis In connection with narrative and the temporalities of interpretation, I analyse metaphor as a medium for a certain flexibility of interpretation available to women.

Yet, I argue, women are Introduction 9 denied access to ways of connecting interpretative practices to the generation or re-production of social privilege. Furthermore, the terms of the interpretative flexibility are limited to white, middle-class women through discursive frameworks of European cultural heritage. I explore the disruptions in the temporal narratives of the self produced through the visual.

Advertising and Consumer Citizenship: Gender, Images, and Rights

This is a discursive structuring of intent, vision and action which redefines rights and responsibilities. This is a shift in the terms of the conventional political affiliation of national citizenship within Europe. Jean-Jacques Rousseau [There is no parity between the two sexes due to the nature of sexual difference. The male is only male at certain moments, the female is female all her life or at least all her youth; her sex is continually invoked.

Secondly, feminists have engaged in a range of theoretical critiques which have demonstrated that the ostensibly neutral, universal category of the individual veils a sexed, racialised and classed particularism. In effect, the rights of the individual are based on a white, male, classed, heterosexual model which excludes subordinate groups. Thus, focusing on the individual as a socio-political taxonomy enables me to explore how gender is a central, structuring principle of citizenship and consumerism.

Examining the discursive construction of this subject allows a more nuanced analysis of agency, mediation and power. Second, it can help us how, under conditions of inequality, social groups in the sense of collective agents are formed and unformed. Third, a conception of discourse can illuminate how the cultural hegemony of dominant groups in society is secured and contested.

Fourth and finally, it can shed light on the prospects for emancipatory social change and political practice. Fraser I carry over these concerns with identity, agency and contested cultural legitimacy into the following sections and later chapters. In certain respects women are included within the category, yet in others they are excluded from it. In the following section, I propose that the concept of performativity can be employed to explore these contradictions.

A performative understanding of identity and discourse does not assume a pre-formed, core subject who expresses individual agency through acts, as in the purchase, use and display of consumer goods or services. Performativity focuses on how categories of selfhood do not pre-exist discourse; through discourse they are continually created and recreated in ways which both produce and challenge forms of exclusion. By exploring contemporary discourses of cultural difference, I argue that these politics of identity and difference function on the level of both the individual and the nation.

In the final section I draw together the concerns of this chapter by exploring how the current intensified focus on the cultural as a terrain of political contestation has transformed the relation between discourses of citizenship and cultural belonging. Central to these new forms of cultural belonging and exclusion are transformations in sexed, racialised and classed identities.

The individual It has often been claimed that historical shifts in the West have produced more fluid social structures, in which status is not fixed in rigid hierarchies determined by birth. The erosion of narrowly defined access to social status highlighted the role of consumption in Western societies in displaying social distinction Slater The old order responded by introducing forms of symbolic consumption-regulation: only certain groups were entitled to wear particular clothes or eat particular animals.

In time, modern structures of market exchange dismantled this system of symbolic regulation and established a contract-based system enabling greater individual social mobility ibid.

Visual Language Is Language: The Importance of Reading the Pictures in Visual Culture

Yet is this social mobility equally available to all? In examining notions of equality and difference in citizenship, feminists have explored how the social contract forms a major structuring principle of contemporary Western societies. In a range of studies, feminists have revealed a fundamental contradiction at the heart of social relations: women and other subordinated groups are positioned by the social contract as both individuals and nonindividuals, both inside and outside society.

In what follows I outline the significance for women of this ambiguous status, in which they are said to both participate in civil relations, yet are negated as full individuals. The concept of contract was developed by political theorists, in particular Locke, as an attempt to construct a narrative about the legitimation of political right in civil society. Contract is a constructed fiction in so far as it represents only one way of explaining social relations; yet it is very real in the effects it produces when deployed in structuring society. Pateman argues that the political fiction of contract theory actively forms the basis of the contemporary ideal of free civil relations.

This ideal is embodied in social institutions such as marriage, employment and citizenship, taking the form of contracts which are based ostensibly on free and equal exchange. Indeed, the original contract which forms the blueprint and legitimation for subsequent contractual relations only appears to be neutral, egalitarian and universal. In fact it is based on a white, male, classed, heterosexual, Western model of disembodied rationality. In contemporary fraternal patriarchy, men are guaranteed ordered sexual access to women as objects of exchange through the marriage contract Pateman Fraser argues for a more nuanced critique which does not propose such a seamless fit between capitalist power and patriarchal power.

Indeed, in later chapters I explore the terms of this fragmentation and contestation of meanings in relation to advertising and the images it produces. In effect, the individual is defined as owning himself as an item of property: he is a self-possessive individual.

For example, according to contract theory the labour power expended in work is detachable from the body of the individual. At this point I would like to turn to the ambiguous social positioning of women according to the terms of contract theory. How is it that women 14 Advertising and consumer citizenship both participate in and are excluded from society in multiple ways? Pateman argues that an examination of the terms of the marriage contract and other contracts, such as employment and citizenship, exposes a contradiction.

Yet this limited status is one which simultaneously denies women a coherent, unified selfhood and restricts even this access to certain groups of women. Indeed, I would argue that it is this gendered ambiguous and denigrated status which is reflected in many studies of consumerism and advertising.

Women are imagined to be active, consuming subjects, yet also cultural dupes and passive ciphers for consumerist ideology Bowlby , ; Felski ; Nava ; Radner This approach enables de Lauretis to explore the The individual, the citizen and the consumer 15 contradictory, disjointed and mobile nature of the discursive production of sexual, racial and class difference. Yet they are outside the social system because they are denied the full status of individual themselves. Women are positioned within the discursive space of the individual in that they are required to perform the contractual relations such as marriage or citizenship that regulate society.

In this capacity, women require the status of individual to participate. Yet they are simultaneously outside the discursive space of the individual through the logical contradiction that they cannot hold the status of individual required for participation. Furthermore, this ambiguity of status should not be considered to be static. Pateman argues that these contractual relations must be constantly repeated in order to reproduce the social system. This is not an act of free will which produces the self through an expression of agency.

This exchange of recognition in turn reinforces the legitimacy of the system of contractual relations. Therefore, it is in this mutually informing process of exchange of recognition that an individual expresses, enacts and materialises his civil rights of freedom and possession.


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Women are framed as both inside and outside the discursive space of the individual. In terms of temporality, they are positioned as having achieved individual status already and yet, contradictorily, they can never attain individual status. In the following section I address these contradictions of mutual recognition through theories of performativity which explore the paradoxes of time, identity and difference.

My focus in this section will be on the way in which such exclusions are re-produced through time. How do historically embedded discourses impact on the contemporary? Judith Butler suggests that the force of narratives of historical origin may reside in their capacity to naturalise social relations: The fabrication of those origins tends to describe a state of affairs before the law that follows a necessary and unilinear narrative that culminates in, and thereby justifies, the constitution of the law.

The story of origins is thus a strategic tactic within a narrative that, by telling a single, authoritative account about an irrecoverable past, makes the constitution of the law appear a historical inevitability. Butler 36 But a single statement of a historical narrative of origins cannot be sufficient to secure discursive privilege once and for all.

Advertising and Consumer Citizenship - E-bok - Anne M Cronin () | Bokus

In order to re-produce the ideals of civil society through the political narrative of the constitution of the individual, Pateman emphasizes the necessity of continually producing replicas of the original contract. Individuals must engage in a repetition of social contracts, comprising the exchange of recognition of status, in order to maintain their civil status as rights-bearers.

Diprose explores the work of the political theorist Locke who has greatly influenced The individual, the citizen and the consumer 17 the terms of contemporary social relations. According to Diprose, Locke posits not only the fundamental detachment between the body and labour power, such that the individual possesses his body, but also stresses the temporal and spatial unity of the individual.