A Reflection on the Main Challenges of Comparative Research on Global Consumption Studies

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 51
Oral Presentation
Viviane RIEGEL , Sociology Department, Goldsmiths University of London, MD, Brazil
We face several methodological challenges once we are involved with comparative research. The scope of study to its phenomena demands a dialogue with writers from different nationalities, theoretical and methodological affiliations, whose interests converge to collaborate in the comparison of different contexts. Specifically, the main discussion when comparing different contexts is whether to discover an underlying grammar to social life which is applicable globally, or to pay attention to the detail of local differences. 

The complexity of social research on global consumption studies can be understood by the idea of a complex system that combines both issues related to the idea of a global culture, as well as specific characteristics concerning local contexts. Following Law and Mol (2002) ideas over complexities in social studies, it is necessary to face multiple domains and the complexity related to consumption practices that are research objects for sociology today.

Comparative research on global consumption studies faces a changing significance of empirical research, as it happens with contemporary social studies. This means that traditional methods, and the most conventional ones are increasingly dated research methods, which are unlikely to provide a robust base for empirical sociologists in the future. This is why it is important for sociologists to get involved with a ‘politics of method’, renewing their interests in methodological innovation, mixing methods and renewing critical reflection (Savage and Burrows, 2007).

Following this methodological discussion, the goal of this study is to discuss the main challenges of comparative research on global consumption studies, considering both the hypothesis of a global consumer culture (Ritzer, 2004) and of localization/ heterogeneity of consumption practices (Featherstone, 1991). In order to present these challenges, I am going to analyze three different research projects focused on global consumption practices that aim to compare the reality of these practices in different countries.