CALL FOR PAPERS: Symposium on ‘Consumer Practices, Media and Landscapes in South Africa’, University of the Witswaterand, Johannesburg.

Consumer Practices, Media and Landscapes in South Africa: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives
A Symposium organized by the Critical Research in Consumer Culture (CRiCC) Network
Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November, 2012
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Submission deadline – 30 September 2012.

Address enquiries to Mehita Iqani (<>).

South Africa, like many post-authoritarian and post-colonial nations in the global south, quickly embraced neo-liberal economic policies and globalized consumer culture. Eighteen years after the first democratic elections, South African media, culture and society seem to be increasingly shaped by economic, rather than socio-political, values. Malls have mushroomed, celebrity culture has boomed, the flow of global commodities has swelled, and a wide variety of new forms of consumption have flourished. This symposium seeks to examine and critically question the so-called rise of consumerism in South Africa after the demise of Apartheid – is it something new, linked to entry to the global marketplace, or was it always there in some form or another during Apartheid, now newly democratized? This interdisciplinary symposium seeks to bring together current research that examines the many ways in which consumerism, consumption and commodities have taken, and are taking, shape within the South African context.

Topics and themes addressed could include:
Commodities: Histories, Flows, Mediations
– What are the commodities (material and otherwise) that have particular traction in South African contexts?
– How do commodity histories influence their current presence in culture and society?
– How do global commodity flows intersect in South African contexts?
– How are commodities presented in South African media spaces, through branding, advertising and editorial?
– Which commodities are fetishized in South Africa, and how, and why?
– What are the tensions between desire, acquisition and use of commodities (luxury or everyday) in South African contexts?
– How are commodities exchanged, and to what purpose, in South African contexts?
Consumption: Practices, Spaces, Representations
– How do different socio-economic groups aspire to, and practice, consumption?
– What forms of consumption are unique to South Africa?
– How is consumption discursively constructed in South African media spaces?
– What forms of resistance to consumption take place in South African contexts?
– What are the geographies of consumption in South Africa?
– To what extent are the landscapes of consumption semiotic?
Consumers: Identities, Groupings, Influences
– Who consumes what, and how?
– What are the individual and collective identities that are constructed through different forms of consumption?
– How do gender, culture, ethnicity and language influence and shape consuming identities in South Africa?
– Which ‘types’ of consumers are most prominent in South African media spaces, and how does these reflect/construct non-mediated relations of power?
– Who are the politicians and celebrities who stand as aspirational figures in South Africa?

Papers addressing any of these topics, or in any way broadly relevant to the symposium theme, from any discipline, are invited. Participation is welcomed from both academic staff and postgraduate students. Address enquiries to Mehita Iqani (email address below).

To submit a paper, please send the following to Mehita Iqani (<>) by 3 September 2012:

– Title of presentation,
– 300 word abstract (for a 20-minute paper),
– Name,
– Institutional affiliation (Department, University),
– Contact details,
– Name of your supervisor, if you are a postgraduate student.

We aim to announce the outcome by 30 September 2012.

Please note that there is unlikely to be a registration fee – and if it becomes necessary to impose one, we will ensure that it is very modest, and will waive it for participants in need of support. Let us know if you are in such circumstances. Catering will be provided, but participants will be expected to cover the cost of their travel to, and accommodation in, Johannesburg.

About CRiCC
The Critical Research in Consumer Culture (CRiCC) Network is an interdisciplinary grouping of scholars from across the social sciences, humanities and beyond who are actively researching issues relevant to the study of consumer culture, broadly defined. The CRiCC network is ‘housed’ at the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa. Its members include academic members of staff and postgraduate students from Wits as well as the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Although it is currently a regional grouping, in that our face-to-face meetings are limited to those based in Gauteng, we hope that over time it will expand to welcome scholars and researchers from around South Africa.

The CRiCC objective is simple: to engage in debate and conversation across disciplines and fields of research on key questions about the role of consumerism, commodities and consumption in culture, society, economics, and politics. We do this by sharing our views, both theoretical and empirical, and always grounded in the research work that we have done, are doing, or plan to do. To this effect, we meet every two months for an informal, collegiate discussion group. We are currently organizing a symposium for the end of the year, which will serve as a platform for formal presentations on current research and ongoing discussion and interaction.
Mehita Iqani
Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Coordinator
Department of Media Studies
University of the Witwatersrand
South Africa

Room 3064, Senate House
Tel: +27 (0)11 717 4123

OUT SOON: “Consumer Culture and the Media: Magazines in the Public Eye<>”
Critical Research in Consumer Culture Network:
The Newsstand Project:<>
ITCH Magazine:

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