Foundations in Human Geography - Consumption

  • Created by: Howard
  • Created on: 04-04-16 10:15

What is Consumption?

'Consumption can be defined as a set of social relations, practices and discourses which centre on the scale, purchase and use and disposal of commodities' (Mansvelt, 2014: 379).

- An everyday social practice, experienced unevenly, used as a marker of identity.

Food Scares - 2013, Horse Meat, Pork found in Lamb Burger, 2007 Foot and Mouth...Responses included policy changes and new frameworks of commitments.

The Politics of Consumption

- Our local consumption experience only possible through global networks. Does that implicate our choices? 'Cocal-colonisation'...

- Images of globality are seen through local lenses...Consumption is politicised, our actions have wider moral and political implications.

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The Relationships

Commodity Fetishism

- Comsumption obscures connections because the practices and relations involved in how a commodity was made are hidden.

How can we conceptualise these relationships?

Global Commodity Chain (GCC) - Thinks more precisely about the specific practices which shape flow of goods. There is a input-output structure. Can be insightful but is simplistic, appears linear and the nature of relationships not explained.


Grounded in providing alternative and sustainable routes to market for disadvantaged producers. Focus on certified fairtrade - the guarantees: fair and stable price, exta income to improve their lives, respect for the environment, stronger position in markets, closer links in consumption.

The label was found in 1992, recognised by 70% of UK adults.

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Fairtrade Example -Gold

The need for fairtrade gold?

-Mineworker experience some significant health hazards

- Environment degradation

Employs 10-15 million worldwide, 1 million children

What does fairtrade do?

- Sets a minimum price, improves working practices, responsible sourcing, help those vulnerable.

Sotrami Mining, Peru

- Fairtrade has: eliminated child labour, improved water supply, improved quality, reduced environmental impact, established a women's association and established a pre-school.

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Is it all visible?

- Fairtrade attempts to make production processes more visible to link the consumer closer to the producer.

- Labels such as fairtrade are a common means of 'reconnection' - they can refetishise and swathe commodities in new layers of meaning.

Alternative Giving

There are multiple ways that we can be involved in charity or aid. A gift for 'feel good' experience to giver and receiver. May be dissapointing for recipients however...

The use of technology?

Mobile phone ownership in Africa at 2% (2000) --> 28% (2009). Phones help connect through: Economic information, social/political, health and environmental.

However, people will lose out if they dont have the advanced technologies but instead less advanced, cheaper ones...

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Consumption is an everyday practice that can be political and ethical

• Through ‘unveiling the fetish’ we can uncover our connections to distant spaces.

• These can be theorised in different ways (GCC, ‘follow the thing’ etc)

• Fairtrade is one way in which we can act as ‘global citizens’ • ‘Alternative Giving’ showed how consumption is not always about physical objects

• Considering development impacts of mobile phones remind us that we need to take into account what people actually need…

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