Cultural distancing attempts of middle class consumers in media consumption
Güzel, Gülay Taltekin
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The consumption practice itself or a characteristic of a consumption practice tells a lot about the (re)production of social boundaries and inequalities in the societies. That makes the social class a fertile field to study in consumption studies. How consumers define and practice their social class position is answered by three research streams. The first research stream focuses on consumers who define their social class position within a specific class boundary by exhibiting a tendency towards consumption practices aligned with the taste of their social class, and an aversion towards consumption practices of other social classes. The second research stream focuses on consumers who define their social class position by emulating consumption practices of upper classes. The last research stream focuses on consumers who define their social class position by participating consumption practices of different social classes undulatingly. These three distinct streams of research concentrate on inter-class relationships of consumers to define their social class position and, to distance themselves from other social classes. However, the rise of new middle classes since the 1960s in emerging economies turn the middle class into an accumulation of different middle classes instead of one homogeneous group. In this research, I aim to understand jockeying of new middle classes for positioning by focusing on how new middle class consumers attempt to mark their middle class positions and to distance from others they deem to be of a lesser status with the help of consumption practices. I chose to look at a documentary show called Ayna because it carries both established middle class qualities as a genre and new middle class sensibilities with its content. I conducted an ethnographic research to look at how middle class consumers watch, interpret, and comment on Ayna. According to the findings, middle class consumers attempt for distancing either by acquiring cultural capital or engaging in critical mockery, and these attempts happen by consuming the same product – watching the same documentary. The findings also suggest that consumers may evaluate Ayna as being a “normal” example of documentary genre or not. If they think that a scene is “normal” by providing new or interesting information, they acquire cultural capital; and if they think it is not, they engage in critical mockery. Therefore, consumers may switch between these two styles of consumption while watching the show.