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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Promise and trouble, desire and critique : shopping as a site of learning about globalization, identity and the potential for change Jubas, Kaela


Adult educators talk frequently about learning which occurs during daily living; however, relatively few explore the breadth and depth of such learning. I contend that shopping, as it is commonly understood and practiced in Western societies, is a site of everyday learning. Among people concerned about globalisation, this learning connects shopping to the politics of consumption, identity and resistance. Central to this inquiry are Antonio Gramsci's (1971) concepts of hegemony, ideology, common sense and dialectic. These are useful in understanding the irresolvable tensions between the political, economic and cultural arenas of social life. Informed by critical, feminist and critical race scholarship, I proceed to conceptualize adult learning as “incidental” (Foley, 1999, 2001) and holistic. I then conceptualize “consumer-citizenship.” Social relations of gender, race and class are central in the construction of identity which influences experiences and understandings of consumption and citizenship in the context of Canadian society and global development. My over-arching methodology, which I call “case study bricolage,” incorporates qualitative case study methods of interviews, focus groups and participant observation with 32 self-identified “radical shoppers” in Vancouver, British Columbia. As well, I employ cultural studies' intertextuality, and include an analysis of popular fiction to further expose discourses of shopping, consumption and consumerism. Drawing on Laurel Richardson's (2000) “crystallization,” I use various analytical “facets” to respond to three questions about shopping-as-learning: What do participants learn to do? Who do participants learn to be? How do participants learn to make change? Critical media literacy theory illuminates the function of popular culture in constructing a discursive web which shoppers navigate. Through shopping, participants learn how to learn and to conduct research, and how to develop a shopping-related values system, literacy and geography. Benedict Anderson's (1991) concept of “imagined community” helps explicate how participants' affiliations with shopping-related movements provide a sense of purpose and belonging. Finally, Jo Littler's (2005) notions of “narcissistic” and “relational” reflexivity clarify that different processes of reflexivity lead to different perspectives on societal change. This inquiry has implications for research and theorizing in adult learning, and the practice of critical adult education.

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