Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation: Self-Authorizing the Consumption of Cultural Difference

Article Abstract

Countervailing discourses of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation are fueling a tension between the ethnic consumer subject, who views the consumption of cultural difference as a valorized identity project, and the responsibilized consumer subject, who is tasked with considering the societal impacts of such consumption. Drawing on an extended qualitative investigation of international K-pop consumers, this study illustrates that this tension spurs consumers to pursue self-authorization—the reflexive reconfiguration of the self in relation to the social world—through which consumers grant themselves permission to continue consuming cultural difference. Four consumer self-authorization strategies are identified: reforming, restraining, recontextualizing, and rationalizing. Each strategy relies upon an amalgam of countervailing moral interpretations about acts of consuming difference, informing ideologies about the power relationships between cultures, and emergent subject positions that situate the consuming self in relation to others whose differences are packaged for consumption. Findings show notable conditions under which each self-authorization strategy is deployed, alongside consumers’ capacity to adjust and recombine different strategies as they navigate changing sociocultural and idiographic conditions. Overall, this study advances understanding of how consumers navigate the resurgent politics of marketized cultural diversity in an era of woke capitalism.

Journal of Consumer Research, April 2023 

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About the researcher

Daiane Scaraboto is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Melbourne. She researches taken-for-granted understandings of markets such as the notions of value, exchange, and the relation between demand and supply. She challenges these established concepts by examining how consumers cocreate value, instigate market change, and creatively resist marketing practices. To better understand consumer roles in markets, Daiane's research employs large qualitative datasets, which often combine interviews and ethnographic fieldwork with social media and other types of online data.

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