26th September 2013

Just looking? Choice and constraint in practices of visual consumption at magazine newsstands

New paper, published in Consumption Markets & Culture available here


This article takes as its subject practices of looking that occur in London’s newsstands (magazine retail displays). Taking an ethnographic approach inspired by the flaneur and emphasising the symbolic properties of consumption activities that take place in public retail space, it reports on an extensive participant observation of newsstands. A three-fold typology of visual consumption is put forward: “drifting,” “speed-shopping” and “free-reading.” These practices of looking are then critically analysed in the light of theoretical perspectives on visual consumption, in particular, the tension between arguments prioritising the pleasures and, conversely, the constraints that it entails. The analysis culminates in the argument that the most fruitful position is a dialectical one that acknowledges the conditional freedom of visual consumption.

Mehita Iqani, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Email: mehita.iqani@wits.ac.za