Consumption and Death


Special issue of Consumption, Markets and Culture; Deadline 1 Feb 2016

Consumption, Markets and Culture


Guest Editors:

  • Susan Dobscha, Bentley University
  • Jeffrey S. Podoshen, Franklin & Marshall College

Deadline for Submission: February 1st, 2016


Death is inevitable and permanent. It is an integral part of our biological and cultural footprint as a species. And while biologists, chemists, paleontologists, and medical examiners deal with the death of the physical body, less focus is placed on the cultural location of death within societies. Yet, the popular press is replete with reports about the modernization of death narratives. Headlines like, “Death Doesn’t Have to be a Downer,” and “Forget Coffins – Organic Burial Pods will turn your Loved Ones into Trees” highlight how consumers are beginning to confront the traditional death ritual narrative by changing from sad to happy voice in memorials to feeding the earth through their bodily remains.

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of calls for research related to consumption of death in all its permutations beyond the topics typically covered in marketing and consumer behavior. Dobscha (2015), Levy (2015), and others have pointed out that consumption permeates death beyond bereavement practices (O’Donohue and Turley, 2005) and rituals (Bonsu & Belk, 2003). Dobscha (2015) highlighted that death related to the body and the death industry were understudied areas in our field. This special issue will serve to cast a wider net and a take a deeper dive into the myriad of processes and practices that surround death in consumer culture, relying on a variety of disciplines and methodological orientations.

Death is inherently cultural and governed by local, national, and global norms and customs, and is subject to consumer cultural forces. As a result, death studies is an emergent subfield in other disciplines, notably sociology, tourism, and history, as researchers are beginning to discover its many complexities and layers. The University of Bath hosts a Center for Death Studies that features Steve Jobs memorials on its website but does not list marketing or consumption as one of its research orientations. However, with the exception of the topics of bereavement and death rituals, very little work has been conducted to date that explores the complex intersection of death and consumption. This lack of in-depth study is difficult to explain from both a consumption and a marketing perspective; every consumer dies and the marketing of death is a billion dollar industry with several layers and services.


This special issue seeks to add and expand on the quickly growing interest in death consumption, specifically to facilitate novel theoretical insights. For example, Podoshen et al. (2014) provide theoretical reflections on dystopian, death-oriented consumption and Stone (2009) discusses how absent death becomes present in the world of tourism. O’Donohoe and Turley (2005), Bonsu and Belk (2003) and Podoshen and Hunt (2009) are further examples of conceptualizing the relationship between consumption and death and related distressing events.

Possible research topics include but are not limited to:

  • material goods and death
  • assisted suicide
  • green burials
  • disposition of a loved one’s possessions
  • death and social media
  • the meaning of death in consumption
  • dark tourism
  • violent consumption
  • consuming the abject
  • death consumption and “taboo”
  • the marketing of memorialization
  • consumption rituals and death


Consumption, Markets and Culture uses Scholar One for manuscript submission. Papers submitted to the special issue will be directed to the guest editors via the online site

Authors should follow CMC guidelines for format and especially for references, found at:

Authors should engage with and cite relevant CMC papers where appropriate.

Specific questions should be relayed directly to the guest editors

Susan Dobscha,

Jeffrey Podoshen


Bonsu, Samuel K., and Russell W. Belk. 2003. Do not go cheaply into that good night: Death-Ritual consumption in Asante, Ghana. Journal of Consumer Research 30 (1): 41-55.

Dobscha, Susan, Jenna Drenten, Kent Drummond, Terrence Gabel, Christopher Hackley, Sidney Levy, Jeffrey Podoshen, Dennis Rook, Katherin Sredl, Rungpaka Amy Tiwaskul and Ekant Veer. 2012. Death and all his friends: The role of identity, ritual, and disposition in the consumption of death. In Zeynep Gurhan-Canli, Cele Otnes, & Rhu Zhu (Eds.), Advances in Consumer Research Volume 40 Duluth: Association for Consumer Research. 1098-1099.

Dobscha, Susan 2015. Death in a consumer culture. Oxford: Routledge

Levy, Sidney 2015. Olio and integraphy as method and the consumption of death. Consumption, Markets & Culture, 18(2): 133-154.

O’Donohoe, Stephanie. and Darach Turley. 2005. To death do us part? Consumption and the negotiation of relationships following a bereavement. Advances in Consumer Research 32: 625-626.

Podoshen, Jeffrey S. and James M. Hunt. 2009. Animosity, collective memory and equity restoration: Consumer reactions to the Holocaust. Consumption, Markets and Culture, 12 (4): 301-327.

Podoshen Jeffrey S., Vivek Venkatesh and Zheng Jin. 2014. Theoretical reflections on dystopian consumer culture: Black metal. Marketing Theory 14 (2): 207-227.

Stone, Phillip R. 2009. Making absent death present. In Richard Sharpley & Phillip R. Stone (Eds.), The darker side of travel: The theory and practice of dark tourism, Tonawanda: Channel View, 23-38.