RN5 - Sociology of Consumption

The Consumption research network has been active in the European Sociological Association since the early 1990s, and has drawn in scholars from across Europe for discussion at the cutting edge of social and cultural debate on consumption. Meetings of the group typically deal with a broad range of theoretical, methodological and empirical issues in the sociology of consumption.

For more information on the group, please visit our website: www.esa-consumption.org

Network Coordinators

Margit Keller
Institute of Journalism and Communication
University of Tartu, Estonia
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Terhi-Anna Wilska
University of Jyväskylä, Finland
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Board members:
Arne Dulsrud,
SIFO, Norway

Michael Egerer,
University of Helsinki, Finland

Irmak Karademir Hazir,

Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Marie Plessz,

Monica Truninger,
University of Lisbon, Portugal

Stefan Wahlen,
Wageningen University, Netherlands

Luke Yates,
University of Manchester, UK

Click here to read the biennial report 2013-2015 of RN5

Click here to read the biennial report 2011-2013 of RN5

Click here to read the biennial report 2009-2011 of RN5


Consumption, inequalities, futures:
Conceptual and practical sociological

Research Network of Sociology of Consumption
European Sociological Association
7-10 SEPTEMBER 2016

Global contemporary problems, including economic recession, climate change and the crisis of the welfare state, raise conceptual, practical and normative challenges for consumption research. They include the need to take account of issues around social equity; questions of civic engagement, trust and interpersonal relationships; and the need to reassess the role of politics in everyday life. The future of consumption concerns future patterns of social interaction, a reimagining of the use of technology and media, and reconsideration of the notions of wellbeing and democracy. 

The current debate on sustainability reflects just one set of the challenges to thinking about contemporary and future consumption: responding to basic needs and ensure a better quality of life without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainable consumption is already an umbrella term bringing together a number of key issues, such as meeting essential needs, enhancing the quality of life, improving resource efficiency, minimising waste, taking a life cycle perspective, but broader questions of the ‘sustainability’, viability and desirability of consumer societies remain. How is contemporary consumption organised and experienced, and how might it change?

Contemporary sociological accounts of consumption have tended to shy away from an explicit concern with normative issues and sustainability agendas. Yet theories and empirical studies of
contemporary consumption can help unpick underlying complexities, offering the potential to contribute a level of depth and sophistication to the challenge of bringing socio-cultural approaches to consumption together with larger societal and sociological problems.

Thus, this interim meeting encourages participants to reflect on the contribution that sociologies of consumption can offer towards not only an understanding of current consumer societies, but also the reconfiguration of social processes and conditions of consumption. What roles and responsibilities regarding consumption are related to being a citizen and consumer respectively? What is the role of different stakeholders in this challenge? How are different aspects of consumption practices – cultural, embodied, material and immaterial, experienced and related? How might we imagine consumption differently? What advances in sociological theory and methodology help us understand the current conjecture, and imagine alternatives? How might the ethics and politics of consumption serve as a tool for imagining new interconnections among economies, governments and individuals?

We invite papers that address various aspects of the sociology of consumption. Possible themes include but are not limited to:

  • Compulsive consumption
  • Consumption and the body
  • Consumption and social capital
  • Consumption inequalities and exclusions
  • Communication campaigns and marketing strategies to motivate sustainable lifestyle
  • Cultural stratification
  • Ethical and political consumption
  • Food and consumption
  • Gender and consumption
  • Generations and consumer culture
  • Markets of consumption
  • Material culture and immaterial consumption
  • Politics of distinction/identity by consumption
  • Prosuming: Production and consumption reunified
  • Sociology of taste: Cultures of consumption
  • Spaces of urban and excess consumption
  • Social responsibility
  • Sustainable consumers/consumption
  • Sustainable tourism/mobility
  • Theories of consumers/consumption

Please see the conference website at https://eventi.unibo.it/esa-consumption-2016


Bologna is vibrant, independent and home to one of Europe’s oldest universities. Less then 50 minutes by train from Florence and Venice, 1 hour from Milan and 2 hours and 30 minutes from Rome, the city is as famous for its cuisine as it is for its fiery left-leaning politics. Market stalls brimming with asparagus and fava beans, specialty shops selling cured meats, and osterias serving fresh pasta with the city’s signature ragù (known as Bolognese in the rest of the world) offer compelling reasons to linger. Fusing haughty elegance with down-to-earth grit in one beautifully colonnaded medieval grid, Bologna is known in Italy as "La Dotta, La Rossa, La Grassa", which translates as "the educated, the red, the fat". "Educated" is for the city’s university, the oldest in Europe and home to such intellectual greats as the novelist Umberto Eco. "Red" refers both to the red bricks that most of Bologna’s historic buildings and porticoes are made from, and to the city’s history of leftist politics. And "fat", of course, is for Bologna’s culinary history, one based on creamy pasta sauces and rich meat dishes. Bologna’s historic centre has been beautifully maintained, its original Roman street plan still discernable today. The best way to explore the city is on foot, taking time to admire the architecture and digest the wonderful food that you’re sure to find.

Getting there

Flying in
Guglielmo Marconi International Airport, 15 minutes by bus from Historic DownTown, connecting Bologna to the main Italian and European airports.

By train
For the strategic geographic location - between downtown and the north - Bologna is the main Italian railway junction, made even more efficient by the high-speed trains, which, together with the new railway station project, has led to greater development and a significant increase of daily transit of trains and passengers.

By car
In Bologna there are the two main Italian motorways that junction, linking the north and south of the country (A1 and A14), thus it can be reached directly from all major Italian cities.

Bologna has a continental climate, without any influence from the seaside. 
The winters here can be cold and snow is never lacking, sometimes it is quite abundant. Summers are hot and muggy due to the high humidity in this area, and they can be long, July and August are the hottest months, but the records tell us that sometimes in June and September maximum temperatures reach 30°C. Spring and fall are, in general, mild and rainy and quite short.

The Faculty of Political Sciences of Bologna University is situated within Hercolani palace, in Strada Maggiore 45. This magnificent house was constructed in 1793 by the Bolognese architect Angelo Venturoli for the princely line of the Hercolani family. In his design the architect recalled clear classical forms from the 16th-century architectural tradition, for example in the façade, while the grand staircase - the last of monumental staircases built in Bologna - echoed Baroque taste and theatricality. Here the sculpted decoration was entrusted to G. De Maria, while the above vault depicting the apotheosis of Hercules was painted by F. Pedrini. The latter, in co-operation with F. Minozzi also painted the ceremonial hall, today Aula Ruffilli, in the main floor with the allegory of 'Apollo and the Hours' enclosed in a monochrome setting of mock architecture animated by harpies, small genies, medallions and four busts of 'modern' poets, including Dante. Also two rooms decorated with chinoiserie by V. Armani e D. Zanotti are also worthy of mention, while several artists (Frulli, Busatti, Basoli) participated in the decoration of the nearby rooms. On the ground floor particularly noteworthy is Boscherecciapainted in 1810 by R. Fantuzzi in a room with curved walls as an introduction for the magnificent winter garden (by Martinelli).

For details, please see the conference website at: at https://eventi.unibo.it/esa-consumption-2016

We expect abstracts of 250 words by February 15, 2016. Abstracts should be sent via the submission form on the conference website. Please include in the abstract information about the theoretical framework of the research, the methodology employed, and the contribution of the paper.

Letters of acceptance and preliminary programme will be sent to participants by March 15th, 2016. Registration and payment of conference fee should be made by July 1, 2016.

Conference fee, registration
The conference fee is 100 € for the members of the Research Network of Sociology of Consumption (RN5) of European Sociological Association. If you are not a member of the network the fee is 120 €. Please check your RN membership on the ESA website and renew it, if needed, or become a new member by paying the network membership fee. The conference fee should be paid by July 1st 2016 to the conference account at the University of Bologna. The details will be specified soon. The fee includes conference documents and catering during the two and half days (evening entertainment and dinners are not included).

Local organizing committee
Ces.Co.Com (Center for Advanced Studies on Consumption and Communication):
Roberta Bartoletti, Piergiorgio Degli Esposti, Antonella Mascio, Pierluigi Musarò, Roberta
Paltrinieri, Paola Parmiggiani, Geraldina Roberti.

RN05 organizing committee
Arne Dulsrud, Michael Egerer, Irmak Karademir Hazir, Margit Keller, Marie Plessz, Monica
Truninger, Stefan Wahlen, Terhi-Anna Wilska and Luke Yates.

ESA 2015 - Call for Papers

Differences, Inequalities and the Sociological Imagination
12th Conference of the European Sociological Association
Prague, Czech Republic, 25 – 28 August 2015

RN5 - Sociology of Consumption

RN Coordinator: Margit Keller, University of Tartu, Estonia, margit.keller(at)ut.ee

Changing consumption in a global context: Imagining new forms of inequality

The world has seen two opposing trends: following the economic crisis growing inequalities in consumption inside countries and on the other hand there is a growing equality of consumption between countries. The global spread of companies, sometimes referred to as McDonaldisation, is one of the reasons for the worldwide convergence of consumption practices. Probably more important, however, might be the emergence of a global market for culture, where music, art, and movies, low- and high-brow culture alike, has become a source for identity projects in countries all over the world. This tendency is further re-enforced by the rise of the Internet, which constitutes an environment that is the same all over the world. Viral videos for example are fast spread around the globe. But how similar this environment in different cultural contexts is after all? On what do we base our observations of social equality and inequality?

The sociological focus on equalities and inequalities has been putting its emphasis mainly on financial and participatory factors; this at the same time has shaped our specific scientific gaze. It enables us to study and identify certain differences, but overlook others. Our research network wants to elaborate at the ESA’s next conference what could be new ways of conceptualising equality and inequality in the sociology of consumption? Where, when and how does consumption divide and unify different ages, regions, nations, centres and peripheries, genders and income groups? Could the sociology of consumption serve as a workshop for imagining innovative ways of looking at our society in general and advance the sociological methodology? Beyond that we seek to shed a fresh light on potentials of critique within the sociology of consumption, from multiple theoretical and empirical traditions, both for interpreting and affecting differences and social inequalities, in line with the ESA general conference call for 2015. Our Research Network invites papers that deal with the above and other various aspects of the sociology of consumption.


Possible session themes include but are not limited to:

01RN05. Food and consumption

02RN05. Ethical and political consumption

03RN05. Consumption inequalities and exclusions

04RN05. Sustainable consumption

05RN05. Material culture

06RN05. Sociology of taste

07RN05. Markets of consumption

08RN05. Cultural stratification

09RN05. Arts participation

10RN05. Consumption and the body

11RN05. Problematic forms of consumption

12RN05. Theories of consumption

13RN05. Gender and consumption

14RN05. Consumption and different generations

15RN05. Structural and institutional conditions of consumption

16RN05. Sociology of Consumption (open)



Joint sessions

1) Joint session with RN 30 (Youth and Generations)

Young people as consumers in leisure society

The lives of young people are embedded in a large variety of available goods, ICT technologies, and leisure activities on the market. Contemporary culture strongly encourages the development of hedonistic attitudes and immediate gratification via the purchase of goods and leisure services. All media contents (TV-channels, magazines, internet contents) targeted to young people are increasingly commercialized, encouraging hedonistic and consumerist lifestyles. The culture of amusement is strongly connected to the entertainment industry, and the development of digital technology changes lifestyles. However, young people are not always aware of the potential risks they might encounter in this context. What are the consequences and potential hazards young people might face? In addition, a large number of youth engage in risky behavior and activities, such as drug consumption, binge drinking, gambling or spending too much time in online environments. Are young people victims or competent actors in consumer society? What message their behavioral practices convey?


We encourage the submission of empirical and theoretical papers addressing issues related to:

-Consumption and in changing youth cultures

-Young people’s leisure time consumption

-Young people, media and advertising

-Young people and virtual/ICT consumption

- Young people’s risky consumption (drugs and alcohol consumption, gambling, engaging in illegal

2) Joint session with RN09 (Economic Sociology)

Coping with the crisis: economic shocks and changing patterns of consumption

We invite papers to a joint session held between RN05 (Sociology of Consumption) and RN09 (Economic Sociology) focusing on different experiences and coping strategies of consumers in relation to economic shocks, like the financial and fiscal crises of the last years. Consumers’ everyday lives have been affected by the crises on multiple levels – from job loss and decline of household income to increasing austerity in social policies. This joint session asks, what has been the interaction between the macro-level, global and local economic phenomena, policy measures responding to the crises and the individual and household coping practices with disruption. We invite papers from different parts of Europe and beyond, where the unfolding, duration and recovery from the crises has had different paces and intensities, from severe downturns to quick recovery or stagnation. In addition, we welcome papers that deal with changing patterns of economic exchange, like share economies, gift giving, innovative and alternative ways of consumption and prosumption, bridging consumer and producer roles. Moreover we are interested in papers addressing what lessons have been learned from the crises so far – for consumers and market economies at large.

Therefore, we encourage the submission of abstracts relating to the following themes:

- consumers and austerity policy

- impoverishment and coping; disruption of lifestyles

- alternative and innovative modes of consumption and prosumption

- share economies; alternative modes of economic exchange

- economic and policy interventions to deal with crisis and their repercussions for consumers

- different regional experiences of crisis

- different temporalities of crisis

- memories of past crises and present intergenerational coping practices, various forms of solidarity

- theoretical development of concepts that gained visibility during the crisis (e.g. security, insecurity, poverty, material deprivation, the ‘neither-nor generation’)

- consumers, creativity and improvisation in times of crisis


3) Joint session with RN16 (Sociology of Health and Illness)

Food consumption, consuming health.

This is a proposal to bring together RN (16) (Sociology of Health and Illness) and RN (5) (Sociology of consumption) to jointly provide a session on the issue of “Food consumption, consuming health”.

A strong link exists between food production and consumption, eating habits and health. A constant amongst the socio-economic and cultural changes we experience in our European societies is that our consumption patterns remain an expression of difference and inequality. This is observable in food consumption, which is also influenced by a wide array of actors holding not only different but differing discourses on “food health” according to their particular interests (industrials, supermarket chains, local producers, nutritionists, public health authorities, consumer and patients associations, media, etc.). This cacophony of health messages and recommendations is widened by the role that Internet is taking in the field of health (online healthcare advice, forum, private clinics websites, personal blogs relating subjective experiences/opinions on health issues, etc. ). This is provoking paradoxical situations and zones of tensions, which may give some insights on how these array of voices on food health are stimulating self-reflexivity (or not) among citizenship, also democratizing (or not), both consumption and health caretaking. In the domain of “food health”, the dominance of medical professionals and public health authorities is indeed more and more contested as healthcare providers diversify their offer of health care and as “patients” are encouraged to be more active on their own health, especially in chronic illness caretaking. Moreover distinct -and sometimes opposing- messages on how to promote health or prevent illness complications coexist among health professionals.

The aim of this joint session is to understand how food consumption is involved in the creation, reinforcement, exacerbation and resolution of health inequalities. At the same time, attention will also be given to the ways in which different health conditions influence people’s eating habits. It will also focus on the ways in the disparity of norms on food health relates to the interest of ill-persons and citizens. Then, the session offers an opportunity to consider the relationships between food, health, difference and inequalities, and the social consequences of their interplay.

We invite empirical, methodological and theoretical papers addressing the following issues and other related topics

- Food consumption, health and care

- Eating in the situation of chronic illnesses

- Sociological deconstruction(s) of “Food health” normative discourses

- Health consumption and citizenship


Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline: 15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform: www.esa12thconference.eu 

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.


European Sociological Association 11th Conference

TORINO, 28-31 August 2013

Call for Papers


Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session (open) or any specific session. Please submit each abstract only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 1750 characters (including spaces, approximately 250 words). Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts can only be submitted online no later than 1st of February 2013 to the submission platform at: www.esa11thconference.eu. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted.

The information requested during abstract submission include: 1) name(s), affiliation(s) and email of all the author(s); 2) contact details of presenting author (postal address, and telephone in addition to email); 3) title of proposed presentation; 4) up to 4 keywords (optional).

Submitting authors will receive an email of acknowledgement of successful submission receipt. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the relevant Research Network or Research Stream; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2013. Each author cannot submit more than two abstracts (as first author).

Abstract submission deadline: 1st February 2013

Abstract submission platform: http://www.esa11thconference.eu

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website.

For information on the Research Networks, visit: http://www.europeansociology.org/

RN05 - Sociology of Consumption

Coordinator: Margit Keller < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >

University of Tartu, Estonia

Do we face a fundamental crisis of the consumer society? Potentials for critique and change

Since 2008 we have a global crisis of the economy, mainly driven by mad money markets. The amount of unemployed people increased almost everywhere. Whole states like Greece, Spain, Portugal have serious problems to refinance their welfare systems. Apparently this crisis is multi-faceted. It is not just a debt crisis, but also a political and a social crisis. But do we have also a serious crisis of the consumer society? Does this affect our way of consuming or even our perspective on consumption in a sustainable, substantial manner? Or isn’t it just the opposite, that the consumer society is the only stable factor in these turbulent times (both as a result of widening social inequalities where available income increases for some social groups and of the emergence of the ‘new middle classes’ in countries such as Brazil, Russia or China)?

Our consumption patterns are pushed and pulled in multiple directions as a consequence of change instigated by a wide array of factors, ranging from the economic downturn, the hypertrophy of the welfare state or the climate crisis. These changes raise questions regarding a required reconfiguration of social processes and conditions of consumption, the balance between the social dynamics of consumer cultures and the reproduction of social relations and, last but not least, the reaction of consumers and other stakeholders to possible future scenarios of consumer society. Inspired from the theme of the conference our particular focus lies on a bifurcation: shall we continue as usual or change our consumer society? Do we have enough trust in the agents of consumption (marketers, consumers, politicians, NGOs) to do the right thing? Beyond that we seek to shed a fresh light on potentials of critique within the sociology of consumption, from multiple theoretical and empirical traditions, both for interpreting and affecting changes, in line with the ESA general conference call for 2013.

Our Research Network invites papers that deal with the above and other various aspects of the sociology of consumption.

Possible themes include but are not limited to:

01RN05.          Food and consumption

02RN05.          Ethical and political consumption

03RN05.          Spaces of urban and excess consumption

04RN05.          Consumption inequalities and exclusions

05RN05.          Sustainable consumption

06RN05.          Material culture

07RN05.          Sociology of taste

08RN05.          Markets of consumption

09RN05.          Cultural stratification

10RN05.          Arts participation

11RN05.          Consumption and the body

12RN05.          Problematic forms of consumption

13RN05.          Theories of consumption

14RN05.          Gender and consumption

15RN05.          Children and young people’s consumer culture

16RN05.          Structural and institutional conditions of consumption

17RN05.          Living with and consuming animals and other nature

18RN05.          Sociology of Consumption (open)

19RN05.          PhD sessions: 1-2 special sessions will be dedicated to PhD students' papers. Discussants will be provided for those sessions.

If you wish your paper to be considered for the PhD session(s), please submit the abstract to session 19RN05.


05JS13.            RN05 Joint session with RN13 Sociology of families and intimate lives

Family, consumption and markets

(Chairs: Bente Halkier & tbc, see RN web-page)

This joint session explores the relationships between families, intimate relationships, consumption and markets. Papers, which address these themes in relation to life course, generations and genders are welcome. We are also interested in papers that reflect upon the ways in which "crisis" (in the broad sense and enveloping economic, social, familial, markets ...) comes into focus. How is this connected with "critique" (e.g. through resistance in/through consumption) and change?

For an extended CfP for this session see http://www.esa-consumption.org

05JS28.            RN5 Joint session with RN28 Society and Sports

The Commercialization of Sport and Fitness

(Chairs: Roberta Sassatelli  & Fabio Lo Verde)

Understood as a suggestive manifestation of consumer culture, the fitness boom is larger than fitness activities and has tapped into sport in innovative ways. The mixing of physical, sportive activities and popular culture has been envisioned through extreme rhetorical cliché, either celebration or comdenation. This often corresponds to disciplinary specialisations: physical education and medical practice have typically played the celebratory tune in contrast to sociology, history and gender studies. This session aims at going beyond such readings to take a proper sociological look at the sport, fitness and physical activities practices which are organized through commercial institutions and relations (of various sorts).

Marrying the sociology of sport and leisure with the sociology of consumption, the session will address critical questions such as: which institutional settings favour participation in sport and fitness activities? What are the advantages and shortcomings of commercial provision vis a vis public provision in the case of physical activities? Which kinds of relations are favoured in commercial fitness premises? Which values are promoted through sport and fitness practices as organized by commercial premises? How do trainers and trainees perceive and cope with commercialism? Which varieties of commercial relations can we discover in the field of fitness and sport activities, how do they differ and how do they compare with other commercial services? How does differentiation within the field respond to social boundaries (gender, class, ethnicity) without it? To what extent the “law of the market” explains the cultural dynamic in the fitness and sport activities? Papers should ideally address key relevant theoretical issues through empirical research.

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