Unpacking Disposal


A special issue of Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Edited by Elizabeth Parsons and Pauline Maclaran; Deadline 31 Mar 2009

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Journal of Consumer Behaviour

Unpacking Disposal

Editors: Elizabeth Parsons, Keele University and Pauline Maclaran, Royal Holloway, University of London

Traditionally, marketing and consumer researchers have focused more on how people acquire goods, rather than on how they dispose of them. Disposition remains a somewhat neglected and under-theorised area in consumer research. As we move into a post-production society we are increasingly concerned with dealing with the surfeit of goods created by over-production. The issues surrounding disposal are therefore pressing. This special issue of the Journal of Consumer Behaviour revisits debates surrounding disposal in attempts to unpack their significance for studies of consumption. In particular we see a theorisation of disposal as central to bridging the production/consumption divide. The common assumption in marketing and consumer research has been that goods follow a linear trajectory of decline and devaluation as goods move from production through consumption and finally to disposal. We argue, however, that disposal can often result in the re-birth and re-valuation of goods through gifting or secondary markets. Such movement of goods, as they pass in and out of different contexts and between owners, underlines the point that ?objects have lives? (as Appadurai 1986 observes). Conceptualising disposal in terms of merely ?moving things along? (Gregson et al, 2007), and thus extending their lives rather than terminating them, highlights circularity in the movement of goods. In this special issue, therefore, we seek to open out disposal, not solely to explore the throwing away or ridding of items we no longer need, but also passing them on to others through gifting and donating. We are interested in the processes that underpin disposal and new ways of conceptualising these. For example, disposal may also not actually involve physical expulsion of goods from the home, but their removal from everyday sight by storing them in out of the way places such as garden sheds, attics and bottom drawers (Lastovicka and Fernandez, 2005). This suggest that disposal is not a once and for all practice but may consist of several shades of letting go.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Practices and Processes: ridding, gifting, sharing, renting, storing, hoarding.
  • Life Events and Transitions: births, deaths, marriage, moving house, downsizing
  • Sites, Spaces and Channels: car boot sales, charity shops, junk shops, scrap yards, landfill sites, EBay, Freecycle.
  • Cultures and Lifestyles: Slow Consumption, Freeganism, New Consumption Communities, Voluntary Simplicity

Papers will be subjected to a blind, peer reviewing process following customary practice in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour. Papers should be sent electronically to either Elizabeth Parsons, e.parsons@mngt.keele.ac.uk, or to Pauline Maclaran, Pauline.Maclaran@rhul.ac.uk. The deadline for submission of papers is 31st March 2009.


Appadurai, A (1986) The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Gregson N, Metcalfe, A and Crewe, L (2007), Moving things along: the conduits and practices of divestment in consumption, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32(2), 187-200

Lastovicka J, and Fernandez K (2005), Three Paths to Disposition: The Movement of Meaningful Possessions to Strangers, Journal of Consumer Research, 31 (March), 813-823.