History 532–History/Culture of Consumerism

This course will look at the history of “modern” consumption patterns with particular emphasis on gender identities.  We will look at changing conceptions of “producers” (traditionally represented as  male) and “consumers”(traditionally gendered as female) and explore the ideas (“rational consumption”), practices (shopping), and  institutions (department stores, advertising agencies) that intertwine to create local and national cultures of consumption.    We will also look at forms of resistance and critique, particularly those from feminist and environmental perspectives.   Readings will introduce students to the theoretical and interdisciplinary diversity of this field, along with interesting new examples of historical work on the topic.  Although readings will focus on the period 1880-1960, students interested in other time periods are very welcome.   In addition to a set of common readings, participants will have the chance to do in depth work on their own specific interests.  Course requirements are regular attendance, participation in class discussion, and a review essay and annotated bibliography on a topic of the student’s choosing.    Readings will include Kristin Hoganson, Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920; Susan Strasser, Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash; Lisabeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic;  Brent Shannon, The Cut of His Coat: Men, Dress, and Consumer Culture in Britain, 1860 –1914, and Sherman Cochran, Chinese Medicine Men: Consumer Culture in China and Southeast Asia.