Metaconsumptive practices and the circulation of objectifications

Shalini Shankar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This article analyzes an intersection of materiality and language use. I argue that verbal practices, generally overlooked in material culture studies, are an integral dimension of consumption. Types of talk - both referential and indexical - can illustrate how people mediate relationships with objects, as well as with each other. Drawing on ethnographic research in Silicon Valley, California (1999-2001), I present examples from middle-class South Asian American communities. In these closely-knit social contexts, I examine how people discursively create objectifications through talk and consumption of visual media such as video and photographs. My examination of these language practices reveals that people not only form relationships with objects they own, but also with objectifications - verbal and visual representations - of objects they borrow, rent, or imagine. Social theorists have remarked on how people can use contests of status and display associated with consumption to ascend into higher social classes. I consider how youth and adults engage in language use and consumption to instead display identity and status within their own community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-317
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Consumption
  • Language use
  • Materiality
  • South Asian diaspora
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology


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