WGS 1424 - American Fetish: Consumer Culture Encounters the Other





Our consumer culture bombards us with images, logos, icons; and this bombardment can shape and even manufacture desires and attitudes in ways that are quite subtle and difficult to notice (let alone to guard against). Have you ever wondered, for example, why computers and phones bearing an Apple logo seem to be “worth” more than other, similar products? Or why we’re willing to pay more for certain commodities – like blue jeans – that bear a recognizable label? More troublingly, what does it mean when notions of human difference – like race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, to name a few – help to market certain commodities? (Consider for example the smiling Native American woman on a package of butter, or “Aunt Jemima” on a bottle of pancake syrup.) What does it mean that many of our most cherished commodities and cultural symbols – from fashion apparel and vacation getaways to “ethnic” food and sports mascots – derive their resonance from ideas of human exoticism? What histories are hidden under these appeals to “natural difference”?