COMMODITY ACTIVISM

Roopali Mukherjee and Sarah Banet-Weiser (2012). ā€œIntroduction: Commodity Activism in NeoLiberal Timesā€ in Roopali Mukherjee and Sarah Banet-Weiser (eds), Commodity Activism, New York: New York University Press, pp. 1-17.

Ā 

  1. In this introduction to their edited collection of essays on commodity activism, Mukherjee and Banet-Weiser highlight the growing prominence of discourses of social activism in advertising and promotional couture. ā€œSocial activismā€, they write, ā€œmay itself be shifting shape into a marketable commodityā€ (1). What do they mean here and what evidence do they cite to support the claim?
  1. In considering what they call commodity activism, Mukherjee and Banet-Weiser argue the need to avoid ā€œan either/or logic of profit versus politicsā€ (3). Why and what alternative framings do they advance?
  1. In order to develop a more historically-informed account of consumer activism, the authors trace formulations and shifts in the United States around categories of ā€œcitizenā€ and ā€œconsumerā€ from the C19th to the present. What main points do they raise in this context?
  1. Finally, Mukherjee and Banet-Weiser consider how the political economies of neo-liberalism in late modernity have encouraged a shift from collective social movements to a focus on the individual as ā€œentrepreneurial selfā€. What is the pith of their argument here and how does it influence their evaluation of activist politics in the contemporary context?

Sarah Banet-Weiser, ā€œFree Self-Esteem Tools?: Brand Culture, Gender, and the Dove Real Beauty Campaignā€ in Roopali Mukherjee and Sarah Banet-Weiser (eds), Commodity Activism, New York: New York University Press, pp. 39-56.

Ā 

  1. In this article, Banet-Weiser reads the popular Dove Beauty marketing campaign in terms of ā€œcommodity activismā€. How does the campaign indicate the normalization of intersections between brand culture and social activism?
  2. Contemporary brand culture, writes Banet-Weiser, functions ā€œas a kind of lifestyle politics for consumersā€ (44). What does she mean?
  3. The Dove campaign has attracted its fair share of criticism, especially from detractors who accuse it of duplicity and opportunism. What are some of the critical responses to the campaign outlined in the article and do you agree or disagree?
  4. Banet-Weiser considers the way in which new media technologies and the participatory cultures of online marketing are blurring boundaries between ā€œproduction and consumption, labor and cultureā€ and forging new hybrid mods of the ā€œconsumer/producerā€ (49). How does she illustrate this idea through the Dive campaign?

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