by Allison Pugh in Poetics

Much existing work in the sociology of culture implicitly assumes actor motivations of status and domination. Yet this theoretical consensus attends only glancingly to the flip side of such behavior: those moments when people deploy culture, not only in a mobility project, but to connect. Based on a three-year ethnography of children's consumer culture in three diverse communities, Pugh finds that children often use consumer culture to belong—both to connect to others, and to achieve visibility in their social worlds. Pugh contends that children's common desires make inequality, particularly in their access to consumer goods, a challenge to the accomplishment of the connection for which they strive. Using insights from Erving Goffman and Randall Collins, Pugh finds children use processes of facework to navigate the problems arising from their differences from others, including those stemming from discrepancies in commodity possession. Out of five facework processes that Pugh identifies, she elaborates upon two that seem to challenge the notion that children seek sameness. Children's goals for consumer culture also differed from those of (particularly affluent) adults. Pugh suggests scholars need to reconsider their theoretical emphasis on exclusion over inclusion, and document the circumstances under which each is particularly salient.