2. FR
  3. Actualités
  4. Événements

Séminaire ABBA : "The Potlatch Revisited:  Rethinking Status and Economic Domination"

Publié le 8 janvier 2024 Mis à jour le 14 mai 2024

Speaker: Ashley Mears (University of Amsterdam)

Title: The Potlatch Revisited:  Rethinking Status and Economic Domination


Conspicuous displays of excess are widespread among the rich.  Yet sociological accounts of elites tend to emphasize their consumption in terms of restraint and disinterest, even “normal” middle-class lifestyles among the rich. On the one hand, elites face the internal struggle of coping with privilege in a society that often valorizes hard work and thrift.  On the other, elites continue to creatively celebrate money in its pure, unconverted form: that is, money as economic, not cultural, domination.  Against the theoretical grain of distinction, this article revives a sociology of ostentation and outlines the pleasures of economic domination.  Why and how do the rich engage in rituals of ostentation?  Who gets to consume badly, and under what conditions does conspicuous consumption feel normal, but other times, tacky?  Based on a review of qualitative studies of elite consumption, I outline three elements of contemporary consumer potlatches, to revisit a classical concept from economic anthropology:  the display of women’s bodies, spatial arrangements replicating power hierarchies, and scripted performances of the destruction of property.  

Bio :

Ashley Mears
has been appointed Professor of Sociology, in particular Chair of Cultural Sociology and New Media, at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Working primarily at the intersections of economic and cultural sociology and gender, I study how societies value people and things.  I research value and exchange in the context of labor, beauty, free stuff, elites, consumption, and social media, and I have written on theory and qualitative methods.  My work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, and featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Economist, NPR, the BBC, and Chinese Cosmo.  

I received my BA in sociology from the University of Georgia in 2002, and my PhD in sociology at New York University in 2009.  I have held visiting positions at the University of Amsterdam and the Central European University in Budapest.  In 2021-22, I was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest. I serve on the editorial boards of American Sociological Review and Qualitative Sociology. 

I am a co-founder of the Ethnographic Cafe and BU's Precarity Lab

Le 17 mai 2024

de 14h30 à 16h30


ULB - Campus du Solbosch

Institut de Sociologie (bâtiment S)

Salle Doucy - 12e étage

44 avenue Jeanne - 1050 Bruxelles