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Articulating consumers through practices of vernacular creativity

Brownlie, Douglas and Hewer, Paul (2011) Articulating consumers through practices of vernacular creativity. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 27 (2). pp. 243-253. ISSN 0956-5221

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The paper discusses the constitution of the consuming subject in lifestyle practices of belonging and difference, taste and choice in the material circumstances of everyday living. It considers how lived moments of mundane activity can be understood, not simply as sites of social reproduction and unknowing regulation, but as fields of invention, transformation and reflexive struggle. In particular we unpack the contribution to be gleaned from a thoughtful return to De Certeau et al. (1998), a theorist of practice whose lucidly insightful works, we claim, remain largely silenced within contemporary debates over the turn to practice in consumer research (Schau et al., 2009 H.J. Schau, A. Muniz and E. Arnould, How brand community practices create value. Journal of Marketing, 73 September (2009), pp. 30–51. Schau, Muniz, & Arnould, 2009). It is argued that current conceptions of practice within management and marketing find themselves corralled by the authoritative legacy of the works of [Bourdieu, 1977] , [Bourdieu, 1984] and [Bourdieu, 1990] which has the effect of marginalizing other traditions of practice theorising: here consumption practices are formatted into logics of rational calculation. We suggest that the work of de Certeau offers an alternative to reductive discursive accountings, revealing the emergent and material character of mundane sense and deed, where the ordinary is figured as the realm par excellence of improvised vernacular consumption practices. In seeking to repair mechanistic underpinnings by linking practices and structure in the everyday lifestyle work of consumers, we hope to turn our gaze towards the moral and political character of that which practice theory calls forth. Born of necessity such practice laughs in the face of Bourdieu's dismissal of the ‘choice of necessity’.