Market Hydraulics and Subjectivities in the “Wild”: Circulations of the Flea Market
Keywords:Flea markets, actor-network theory, circulation, consumption, second-hand, subjectivity, Cochoy
Since consumer researchers started paying attention to flea markets they represent common consumer and market research objects. Arguably, in the “natural laboratory” of the flea market, researchers can observe and theorize market and consumer processes “in the wild”, as forms of direct marketing and consumption. We build on existing flea market research through adopting a circulatory approach, inspired by actor-network theory (ANT). Rather than presenting a theory of (flea) markets, ANT is useful for studying markets from the perspective of grounded market-making processes. Consumption is understood as the interplay of consumers, marketers, retailers, and a wide array of artifacts and market mediators like products, economic theories and ideas, packaging, market space (in the physical sense) and furniture, etc. Our results point out that not only does such an approach enable analysis of features commonly studied within consumer research such as calculative action and social interaction, but also issues more rarely in focus in such research, such as cognitive patterns of consumer curiosity, emotions, senses, and affect. Furthermore, even though flea markets foremost are places of commerce and exchange of second hand goods, there is a large variety of other forms of flows or circulations going on “backstage” that enable the surface phenomena of second hand consumption to come into being. Many of these circulations, we argue, are material rather than immaterial Vendor and buyer subjectivities are thus understood as outcomes of circulatory dynamism that involves a range of material and immaterial flows.
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