Identity “Branding”: consumption performances among Lebanese youth
Global Fusion Conference
This paper investigates consumption patterns among Lebanese youth. It posits that consuming foreign brands is a tool of communication in which product users ‘perform’ social status and cultural identity. Based on an ethnography conducted in Lebanon in May 2012, the study finds that consuming foreign brands is a means for consumers to gain recognition among peers and distinguish themselves from others in their community. The study focuses on the relationship between such consumption habits and contested identities in a volatile Lebanese society. As regional and domestic conflicts continue to polarize the Lebanese society, products emerge as a currency of symbols. Brand-name products reveal a consumer’s “cultural capital” (Bourdieu, 1984) and savvy in global trends and fashion. Moreover, through these products, consumers exhibit a particular mindset by symbolically disassociating themselves from a sectarian society and a divided community. The excessive attention to brands – and thus, attention to self-identification – lies in one’s dissatisfaction with social and political affairs (Leiss, Kline, and Jhally, 1986). Giving a cultural and historical backdrop to Lebanon, this paper anchors ‘consumption performances’ within theories of hybridization and post-national identities.
Bourdieu, P. (1984). Selections from Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste: Harvard Press.
Leiss, W., Kline, S., & Jhally, S. (1986). Social Communication in Advertising: Persons, Products, & Images of Well-Being. Toronto: Methuen.
Assem Nasr (2012).
Identity “Branding”: consumption performances among Lebanese youth. Presented at Global Fusion Conference, Athens, OH.