New Insights on Consumption Collectives


Special issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research; deadline 1 Jul 2020

Author: James Ellis


JACR Call for Papers

Issue Editors: Eric Arnould, Giana M. Eckhardt and Adam Arvidsson

Much consumer research has focused on the behaviors and lifestyles of individuals. Nonetheless, researchers from diverse perspectives and paradigms have addressed collective dimensions of consumer behavior. Dyads and other collective formations are present in studies in game theory, joint purchase decision making, buyer seller relationships, dating, and nascent studies of interactions with AI devices and robots. Families have provided context for the study of consumer socialization, resource sharing, decision-making styles, out-sourcing, gift giving and inheritance. Consumer researchers have considered ethnic, national, gender, class and age groups in terms of a host of topics including identity work, consumer vulnerability, marketplace discrimination, acculturation, preference formation, satisfaction and complaining behavior, and conspicuous consumption. Distinctive to consumer research are our contributions to understanding consumption communities, brand communities, and consumer tribes from both theoretical and managerial perspectives. Some scholars have even crossed into the territory of organizational theory to examine consumption behaviors in firms and other institutional settings. We have begun to examine more ephemeral digital collectives sometimes termed “publics” that social media facilitate and interrogate the nature of collectivity itself. Finally, the emergence of the Internet of Things opens the gate to the study of non-human collective consumption.

In this issue, we are interested in advancing theoretical insights into consumption collectives. We define consumption collectives as networks of social relations that arise around consumer goods, brands, other kinds of commercial symbols, or digital platforms. The idea behind consumer collectivities is to emphasize the social as opposed to individual dimension of consumption: how consumer goods, brands, commercial symbols, and digital platforms generate and support social relations, common meanings or simply shared moments or affective intensities. In recent decades, the diffusion of digital media; the generalization of consumerist aspirations to vast numbers of new consumers in countries like India, China, or Nigeria; what Bauman (2013) terms greater liquidity in social life; and the politicization of consumption through new kinds of alternative or resistant consumer communities, to name but a few developments, have generated a number of novel ways for consumer goods, commercial symbols and digital platforms to generate and support collectivities beyond the notion of communities.

The rationale behind this special issue is to focus on such novel forms of consumer collectives. How do the less resourceful consumers who rely on the growing global pirate economy to acquire counterfeit or knock-off versions of branded consumer goods and advanced electronics relate to the brands and other commercial symbols that adorn these goods, albeit not always in legitimate ways. How do the more ephemeral or liquid kinds of consumer sociality that characterize digital consumer cultures operate to catalyze social ‘movements’ like new fashions and trends? What is the role of collective affect vs subjective meaning in linking consumers to liquid consumer collectives? What are the links between production and consumption in a consumer culture evermore generated by prosumer practices? Here we are thinking of topics ranging from the creative repropagation of memes to the kinds of ‘memefacturing’ linking small-scale flexible forms of material production to internet trends, resulting in objects like the hoverboard or the selfie stick. Networks of subsistence market innovators are also included.

What kinds of alternative politics or lifestyles are born around nexi of production and consumption, as in cyber protest, in the new food economy, or the urban hipster economy? The production, circulation and consumption of digital goods like Bitcoin and affordances like BlockChain may provide not just new sources of value, but animate economic and social relationships. Reviewing sites from Google to TripAdvisor or Zomato may provide consumers opportunities for activism, not merely information-sharing. Sensationalist headlines about the “dark web” invite consumer researchers to investigate the collectives forming there. Thus, new research on how platforms, consumer goods, brands and commercial symbols in general operate to catalyze collective sentiment and belonging in these novel contexts is needed.

Appropriate contexts might range from collectives in which consumers have almost no meaningful connection with each other, such as in brand publics; to ones in which there might be a virtual connection (between consumers and their Alexa-like device); to ones in which consumers are connected by a strong shared interest (a clothing or handbag library in which consumers participate as part of their commitment to sustainability).

We seek papers that examine the cultural, social, psychological, economic or political dimensions and implications of collective consumption for consumer research. We are methodologically ecumenical. For a host of historical and disciplinary accidents, particular subfields of consumer research seem to be associated with particular areas of study. Nevertheless, there would appear to be no insurmountable obstacles to greater boundary crossing. Consequently, this issue on consumption collectives invites scholarship that crosses or mixes topics and research paradigms in unconventional ways. We welcome conceptual papers as well as empirical papers that stem from any research tradition within consumer research (consumer culture theory, consumer psychology, marketing strategy, econometric modelling, game theory, etc.) as well as outside the consumer research discipline. Colleagues in anthropology, cultural studies, economics, geography, psychology, sociology and elsewhere are welcome.

Editorial Timeline
Deadline for Initial Submission: July 1, 2020
Pre-Conference Meeting at ACR (Paris, France): October 1, 2020
Deadline for Final Manuscripts: June 15, 2021

Papers appearing in the issue should not exceed 8,000 words. Submissions will receive double-blind peer review. Author guidelines may be found at the JACR Guidelines for Authors page. Authors who would like additional information about the issue or would just appreciate feedback on a potential project are encouraged to contact the editors:

Eric Arnould –
Giana M. Eckhardt –
Adam Arvidsson –

Editor bios and submission instructions can be found here: