Ashley Mears. The Potlatch Revisited: Doing Display among the New Global Elite

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The Potlatch Revisited: Doing Display among the New Global Elite

How does conspicuous consumption unfold in situations? The article challenges the interpretation of conspicuous consumption as a static feature of elites by developing an interactional approach to explain pecuniary display as situated collective accomplishment. Drawing from a multi-sited ethnography conducted in the global VIP party circuit from New York and Miami to Cannes, I show how nightclubs mobilize elites into conspicuous consumers with staged spending rituals akin to the potlatch in economic anthropology.

Ashley Mears(PhD NYU 2009) is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University. Her work stands at the intersection of cultural sociology, economic sociology and gender studies. Her research onhigh end market settings documents gendered processes of valuation and evaluation, and analyzeshow cultural logics of worth shape social inequalities. She is the author of Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model (University of California Press 2011). Her second book project (Very Important People: The Labor of Conspicuous Consumption, under contract with Princeton University Press) examines how women produce status distinctions for men in the global VIP leisure and party scene.