The World of Things: Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective



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The World of Things: Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective
Spring 2011

University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Professor Patrick Young

Coburn 108



patrick_young@uml.edu x4276

office hours: Tuesdays, 1-2:30, Thursdays 2-3:30 and by appointment


Course Description:
This course will examine the emergence and historical impact of consumer cultures in the modern world, from the mid nineteenth century through the present. Focusing mainly on the cases of France, the United States and Japan, it will trace the broad shift from elite luxury consumption to popular, and eventually global consumer culture over this period. Individual classes will focus on the emergence of new retailing practices and spaces of consumption, changing attitudes toward shopping and spending, the construction of modern social identities of class, gender, generation and race through consumption, and political struggles over consumption. Our approach to these issues will be an interdisciplinary one, involving analysis of a great variety of both written and visual historical materials. The main aim of the course is to understand how consumption of material goods has come to be so central a part of our world and our individual lives.

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