Marketing Generations: Oral Histories of UK Consumer Culture by Dr. Andrea Davies and Prof. James Fitchett

17 02 2014

AS:  Consumption and Experiential Marketing Knowledge Platform Seminar here at the University of Liverpool Management School will be hosting an interesting presentation on Wednesday. 

Marketing Generations: Oral Histories of UK Consumer Culture

Dr. Andrea Davies and Prof. James Fitchett, University of Leicester School of Management

Wednesday 19th February 2014, 3-5pm
Cypress Teaching Room 410

All welcome

Theories of mass consumer culture emphasize transition, describing how social changes since the 1950s have had a profound and structural impact on the relationship between individuals, the market and commodities. These transitions can be represented and illustrated in many varied ways such as through an understanding of technology and technological change, through a theory of shifting social and cultural values, or through a model of evolving identities (Slater 1999). It can be difficult to avoid adopting an episodic and relatively linear approach to these analyses. This research project approaches the evolution of marketing and consumer culture using an oral history methodology in attempt to overcome some of the problems with simplified episodic accounts (Davies 2011; Witkowski 1999). The data is drawn from 87 individual in-depth interviews with UK women in 23 family groups. Most of the family groupings comprise three generations (grandmother-mother-daughter) although some of the data is from two generations in the same family (mother-daughter). It captures the reflections that respondent’s story about their pasts framed from an interpretation of their own present. The oral history approach adopted in this research does not seek to uncover a literal description of the past but rather is focused on memory; individual, public, community and generational. It is in generational memory that family signatures or ideologies, reveal similarities across generations but also how each generation is positioned differently as a consequence of the small shifts in discourse over time (Alexander 2009, Kelova 2009). It is in public and community memory that the oral history approach makes visible the artifacts of discourse as they are storied in the everyday of people’s lives (Passerini 2003, Portelli 1997 & 2003, Thompson 2006). This unique data set offers fascinating insights into the emergence of consumer culture in the UK, and the changing values associated with shopping, buying and consuming. The data illustrates the evolution of many different aspects of marketing practice, such as the emergence of supermarkets and self-service and promotion, the development of discourses of choice and the self, as well as ideologies of modernity, progress and consumption (Hilton 2003).


Alexander, S. (2009) ‘Do grandmothers have husbands? Generational Memory and Twentieth-Century Women’s Lives’, Oral History Review 36(2) ,159-176.

Davies, A. (2011) ‘Voices passed’, Journal of Historical Research In marketing 3(4), 469-485.
Hilton, M. (2003) Consumerism in 20th Century Britain. Cambridge University Press.

Koleva, D. (2009) ‘Daughters’ Stories: Family Memory and Generational Amnesia’, The Oral History Review, 36(2), 188–206.

Passerini, L. (2003) ‘Memories between silence and oblivion’, in K. Hodgkin and S. Radstone (eds.), Contested Pasts: The Politics of Memory, London: Routledge, pp.238-253.

Portelli, A. (1991) The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History. State University of New York Press.

Portelli, A. (1997) The Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Slater, D. (1999) Consumer Culture and Modernity, London: Polity Press.

Thomson, P. (2006) ‘Four Paradigm Transformations in Oral History’, The Oral History Review, 34(1), 49–70.

Witkowski, T.H. (1999), The early development of purchasing roles in the American household, 1750 to 1840, Journal of Macromarketing 19(2), 104-114.



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