Using Cultural Repertoires During Unsettled Times

Article Abstract

This research draws on the theory of culture in action, which explains how consumers selectively mobilize their cultural repertoires to understand and solve daily problems. Contemporary life, however, is increasingly unsettled, challenging the adequacy of consumers’ repertoires and how they use existing institutional cultural resources. This qualitative study identifies four ways that consumers use their cultural repertoires and institutional resources during unsettled times. Formulaic uses are when consumers mobilize familiar cultural tools and existing resources to resettle. Versatile uses are when consumers develop new cultural tools to transform while working within demanding institutional resources. Freewheeling uses are when consumers mobilize familiar cultural tools for play but rework institutional resources to be less demanding. Finally, troubleshooting uses are when consumers extend their existing cultural tools to suffice but reject institutional resources. These varied uses of culture capture how consumers either mobilize or develop their cultural repertoires and institutional resources to serve different ends. This study provides a more dynamic, pragmatic, and nuanced explanation of how consumers summon culture to solve problems during unsettled times. A conceptual model explains this process, and the discussion highlights the theoretical contributions.

Journal of Consumer Research, June 2024

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About the researcher

Julie L. Ozanne is the Professor of Marketing at the University of Melbourne. Julie is a transformative consumer researcher who specializes in alternative methodologies for the study of social problems, such as interpretive, critical, participatory, and community action research methods.

She also examines the problems of the poor and the low literate, as well as new forms of sustainable exchange based on sharing. Her scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Journal of Service Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Business Research, and European Journal of Marketing, among other outlets. She was the chair of the TCR advisory committee (2013-15), co-edited the book--Transformative Consumer Research for Personal and Collective Well-Being (2012), and co-chaired the 2009, 2015, and 2017 TCR conferences and 2022 TCR-AMA Impact Festival. She regularly presents at the ACR doctoral consortium and has received over a dozen teaching awards. She received the 2022 Marketing and Society Special Interest Group Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2024 Association for Consumer Research Distinguished Service Award.

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About the researcher

Marcus Phipps is a Senior Lecturer of Marketing in the Department of Management & Marketing at the University of Melbourne.

His research interests include sustainable consumer behaviour, consumer well-being, routine disruption and the intersections of public policy and the marketplace.

Marcus’s research is embedded in the field of interpretive consumer research with an emphasis on sustainable consumption and the social well-being of consumers. He has conducted research into areas as diverse as tactical urbanism, the disruption of household routines during severe drought, consumer feelings of responsibility for sustainability, and the branding of politicians. His research has been published in outlets such as Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Policy, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management and the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.

Marcus is on the editorial board of the Journal of Consumer Research and a regular ad-hoc reviewer for premier journals, a mentor at the CCT and ACR conferences, and supervises a number of masters and doctoral students. Prior to entering academia Marcus worked for not-for-profit and market research organizations.

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