Dis/place/d Consumers: A Multi-Sited Ethnography of LGBT+ Groups in Manchester

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis proposes the dis/place/d consumer as an alternative way of understanding place consumers within ambivalent networks of humans and nonhumans. In the Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) tradition of marketing and consumer research there is a vast body of literature on the topic of ‘space and place consumption’. The majority of this literature focuses on understanding and theorising places and has paid far less attention to critically interrogating and developing the notion of the ‘place consumer’. It is argued that place consumers are implicitly conceptualised as agentic subjects of consumption who freely interpret, make-decisions about, and act upon places as the objects of consumption. However, this understanding is asynchronous with contemporary material-semiotic developments in CCT where agency is understood in more complex ways and where the subject-object binary has been challenged. Drawing on material-semiotic ideas, this study proposes that the place consumer can be re-conceptualised through the notion of ambivalent actor-networks. The ambivalent actor-network conceptualisation is combined with data generated through a multi-sited ethnography with three LGBT+ leisure groups in Manchester, a city in the northwest of England. The resulting analysis and interpretation identifies three different ways in which place consumers emerge through actor-networks: as displaced consumers, as placed consumers, and as agentic place consumers. These evolve through two different phases of ambivalence: conflicting and co-operative. These five concepts are integrated into the dis/place/d consumer framework, which highlights how these different consumers and ambivalences are not discrete but co-emergent and overlapping phenomena. The dis/place/d consumer framework provides a more complex and dynamic way of understanding the actions and experiences of place consumers, as well as their relationships to other place consumers and to places of consumption. In doing so it brings together material-semiotic thinking with the study of place consumption.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEmma Banister (Supervisor) & Anna Goatman (Supervisor)


  • LGBT+
  • Space
  • Material-semiotics
  • Manchester
  • ANT
  • CCT
  • Place Consumer
  • Consumer
  • Place
  • Consumer Research

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