Researching Children, Childhood, and Consumer Culture

Part of the Studies in Childhood and Youth book series (SCY)


In the introduction, I argued that there is consensus in recent debate on children, childhood and consumer culture for the need to move ‘beyond the moralistic and sentimental views about children’s consumption that tend to dominate the public debate’ (Buckingham 2011). Some suggestions have been made for how this may be done, including the presentation of varied empirical case studies that unearth the often complex and contradictory realities of children’s lives (Buckingham and Tingstad 2010; Chin 2001; Martens et al. 2004; Martens 2005). In this chapter, I argue that there is a need for awareness of the challenges that confront those wishing to follow this call for innovation. Several challenges connect with common conceptual knots and discursive practices, which reveal and hide cultural complexities in specific ways. In this chapter, I concentrate on the performativity of scholarly practices around the binary opposition of the sacred and the profane in debates on children, childhood and consumer culture. I identify three ways in which incompatibility work around this binary opposition is evident in debates. The first form of scholarly performativity I call simple incompatibility work, and it is represented by what may be called moral entrepreneurship. The second version is bad capitalism, which includes contemporary neo-Marxist critiques of consumer culture. The third type is arguably the most challenging, as it is tied up in the temporal trajectories of programmes of scholarly work, in what may be termed territorialisation around entities. What I mean by this is the development of scholarly terrains of practice where research programmes have diverged by becoming focused on the entities of ‘the child’, ‘motherhood’ and ‘parenting culture’, ‘consumption’ and ‘the market’, and where attempts to tie these terrains together is uneven. I discuss each of these, embedding bad capitalism in the discussion on territorialisation, and conclude by signposting the approach adopted in the book. This will be discussed in Chapter 3.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keele UniversityNewcastleUK

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