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Title: I am what I consume : the postmodern self and consumption symbolism
Author: Wattanasuwan, Kritsadarat
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis employs interpretive research via ethnographic fieldwork to explore the complex relationship between the postmodern self and consumption symbolism. In postmodernity, where society becomes more global but simultaneously decentred, pastiche-like and hyperreal, the self is encountering a number of dilemmas propelled by the looming threat of personal meaninglessness. In order to attain a sense of existence, the self appears to seek the meaningfulness of life from and through symbolic consumption. Indeed, postmodernity is primarily a consumer culture where consumption is central to the meaningful practice of our everyday life. The postmodern self makes consumption choices not only from the products' utilities but also from their symbolic meanings, the function of which operates in two directions: outward in constructing the social world, social-symbolism; and inward in constructing our self-identity, self-symbolism. To understand these phenomena, ethnographic fieldwork of four distinctive groups - a group of male femaling transgenders, a group of young nouveaux riches, a group of young extremist Buddhists and a group of young provincial women - are conducted in Bangkok, Thailand. Principally, the research explores how the informants employ everyday consumption symbolically in their self-creation processes. It also examines how the informants appropriate symbolic meanings through and from their lived and mediated experiences, and incorporate these meanings into their symbolic self-projects by means of everyday consumption. Moreover, it observes how the informants negotiate their self-social symbolism through the process of self-others identification within their friendship groups. The interpretations unfold a number of surprising outcomes which provide insight into the informants' self-projects and their consumption experiences. To conceptualise the interpretations, a model - Consumption Symbolism and the Harmonising Self - is proposed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Consumption (Economics) ; Social aspects ; Self-perception ; Thailand