The dialectics of retail, space and identity

Authors: Jacob Miller*, University of Arizona
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Development, identity, retail, neoliberalism, Chile, embodiment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The growth of a new landscapes of consumption has characterized much of the literature on globalization and socio-cultural transformation. The urban landscapes of Chile are a perfect prism through which to consider the capabilities of contemporary retail capital as it shapes new material cultures, along with the dialectics of socio-spatial change that always accompany such projects. The neoliberal imperatives of the Pinochet military dictatorship resulted in the rapid expansion of this new landscape that incorporates the population into new flows of debt, commodities and retail in new ways. This spatial system is now reaching areas that were previously on the margins of such flows, such as the ChiloƩ archipelago in southern Chile. Prior to the neoliberal experiment of the Pinochet regime, the inhabitants of ChiloƩ lived a mostly agrarian and sea-faring life, existing on communal practices of social reproduction. In the neoliberal era, the region became a center of industrial aquaculture, which has resulted in the decline of agrarian livelihoods and the growth of new urban culture of consumption. At the same time, a tourism has also expanded, as visitors search for a landscape of difference and nostalgia, allegedly still accessible through the consumption of heritage performances. These dialectics are present in the findings from ethnographic research around the controversial construction of a shopping mall and the embodied geographies of development, identity and mobility that it emerged from. This presentation will explore these emerging material cultures of the built environment and the many ambivalences and anxieties of contemporary consumer subjectivity.

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