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Advertising and Consumer Culture

Friday 31 May 2013, 9.30AM

Keynote speaker: Dr Jo Littler (City University London)  'Aspiration Nation? Consumer Culture and Meritocracy in the Recession'

'Commercial speech – advertising – makes up most of what we share as a culture . . . As the language of commercialism has become louder, the language of high culture has become quieter.'

James B. Twitchell, Twenty Ads that Shook the World

Throughout the modern period, advertising and consumer culture have dominated everyday life; moreover, the trappings of commercialism permeate much of supposed ‘high culture’. Commodities clutter the pages of novels from Dickens and Zola to Bret Easton Ellis; works by Joyce and DeLillo are enlivened by advertising jingles and slogans; brands and trademarks pervade the practice of artists from Picasso to Warhol and the visualisation of consumer desire is appropriated and challenged in the work of Richard Hamilton and Martha Rosler.

Whether celebrating or critiquing advertising and consumer culture, art reflects our enduring fascination with them, despite research into the psychological effects of advertising, concerns over the evils of consumerism, and the often sinister nature of market research. Countervailing against consumerism and advertising’s many critics, theorists such as Michel de Certeau and the critical movement Thing Theory have endeavoured to examine advertising and consumer culture from a standpoint that goes beyond the model of the ‘passive consumer’ or Marx’s account of commodity fetishism.

This one day symposium will bring together a range of perspectives on advertising and consumer culture with a view to provoking interdisciplinary discussion.

Our keynote speaker is Dr Jo Littler, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Industries at City University London and the author of Radical Consumption: shopping for change in contemporary culture (Open University Press, 2009). She has published widely on consumerism, particularly as it intersects with the politics of globalisation; accordingly, her work has addressed topics such as ethical consumption, anti-consumerism and the culture industry.

Conference schedule with abstracts and biographies 

Advertising and Consumer Culture Programme with Abstracts and Biographies (PDF , 1,016kb)

Advertising and Consumer Culture poster (PDF , 355kb)


To register and for further details please contact

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, Humanities Research Centre, University of York