Last year I attended the inagural lecture of Matthew Cornford and thought it was just brilliant. If I understand correctly, it’s a new professors’ way of introducing themselves to the University as a whole, so last year we were treated to a sort of portfolio and life path presentation of work and experiences which led to the appointment. So I’ve signed up for this one too.
‘Steven Miles, Professor of Urban Culture will present his lecture entitled:
Purchasing the post-modern self? Place, space and the art of consumption, Thursday 13 January at 6.30pm
Sallis Benney Theatre, University of Brighton, Grand Parade, Brighton, BN2 0JY
The subject of consumption became a focus for considerable attention by social scientists in the 1990s when many commentators recognised that, potentially at least, consumption was as significant an arena for the construction of identity as that of production. Despite its ten minutes of fame, critical engagement with consumption has never been fully crystalised. The status quo is such that the arena of consumption has largely deemed to be a trivial entity; apparently a preoccupation of postmodernists and right-wing apologists. In this presentation it is suggested that, whether we like it or not and regardless of the environmental consequences, the experience of consumption continues to lay at the very heart of contemporary social and cultural life and, as such, deserves more serious attention in both the social sciences and the arts. At present, the actions of consumers are all too easily condemned both on a social and an intellectual level; the latter perhaps saying more about academics’ own consumption habits and, in particular, their penchant for the joys of Radio 4 than it does about the world they interrogate. Often the subtleties of the complex and contradictory characteristics of a consumer society are misinterpreted so that the pleasure implied by consumer lifestyles remain unexplored in favour of a wholly predictable analysis which masquerades as a ‘critical’ analysis of the neo-liberal state. The concern here is with the extent to which the consumer is ‘controlled’ by the world which he or she inhabits. Focusing in particular on the role of consumption in the construction of the urban everyday, notably through the relationship between the city and art and more specifically, the museum and the art gallery, the suggestion here is that the consumer is actively complicit in the consumer society in which he or she is implicated. The consumer should not then be condemned or indeed pitied for he or she gladly dances to the tune that the consumer society has chosen.
Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.