The preceding chapters have discussed the relation between consumerism, identity and belonging through a focus on the visual in advertising. By outlining the way in which knowledge of the consumer circulates within the advertising industry and within the advertising campaigns it produces, I have argued that visuality and knowledge articulate in powerful and complex ways. Colin Campbell (1997, 1999) has argued that studies of advertising and consumerism should not restrict themselves to a simplistic tracking of meanings in 'messages' about identity. Campbell wants to get away from the idea that consumer acts do not so much do something as say something or communicate something. As I have demonstrated in previous chapters, theories of performativity can be useful for exploring how 'saying something can be doing something'. This 'doing' does not necessarily centre on sending messages, but rather is the very action of constituting the self. Performativity looks at how speech acts produce the subject and aims to show how something as apparently 'immaterial' as speech can form the very materiality of the bodily self. I have adapted this framework to consider the visual and have explored how the origins of meanings and their relation to the awareness of the self produce complex forms of intent and responsibility.
A central theme of my analysis has been the significance and the signification of 'differences', and particularly sexual, 'racial' and cultural differences. As Donna Haraway (1991:249) notes, 'some differences are playful; some are poles of world historical systems of domination. “Epistemology” is about knowing the difference'. Drawing from this insight, I have explored visual epistemologies in advertising and how processes of vision are about seeing the difference. Seeing the difference combines processes of visual perception with frames of knowledge. This fusion creates the social legibility of signs - it produces social meanings linked to images. But seeing the difference also involves seeing through difference: the seeing subject draws on epistemological status in order to authorise itself. In this way, the self becomes authorised as seeing subject. I have argued that the neutral epistemological status of this subject is in fact an enduring myth which hides the sexed, racialised, classed nature of the subject. Focusing on
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Publication information: Book title: Advertising and Consumer Citizenship: Gender, Images, and Rights. Contributors: Anne M. Cronin - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 133.
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