Mary Douglas Memorial Lecture 2018: The Politicization of Consumption

This year’s Mary Douglas Memorial Lecture will be presented by Professor Dame Caroline Humphrey, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, on Wednesday 23 May at 6pm in the Archaeology Lecture Theatre, UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. 

Registration is now open

The Politicization of Consumption: The World of Goods Revisited

Mary Douglas with Baron Isherwood famously argued that the desire for goods is not an individual psychological urge. Rather, it is part of a social way of life, expressing identities, signaling esteem, and indeed ‘making culture.’  This lecture takes up this insight to explore the implications of the politicization of consumption, especially of goods traded internationally.  Political attitudes often outweigh the conventional criteria of price and quality, and result in decisions not to purchase (e.g. boycotts) as well as preferences. In uncertain times and across hostile borders trade goods are not only politicized markers but can also be symbolically provocative agents, capable, for example as viral memes on the Internet, of incitement to new identities and relations. The lecture will focus on goods in the Russia – China - Ukraine trade nexus, and will comment on the relevance of this case for broader contemporary issues, from ethical consumption to trade standards to Brexit.

The annual lecture, in memory of Dame Mary Douglas (1921-2007), is sponsored by the Royal Anthropological Institute, the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford, and the Department of Anthropology at UCL.