Consuming at the Centre of Nowhere: The Phenomenon of Liminal Consumption

Kevina Cody, Dublin Institute of Technology

Document Type Theses, Ph.D


This thesis explores a gap. Not just in the consumer research literature extant; but the lived experience within a gap itself. Liminality, as an anthropological perspective on an ambiguous space, the threshold between ordered worlds has been welcomed into the midst of studies within the disciplines of sociology and psychology. However it is the transition as a complete trajectory from beginning to resolution which has preoccupied the field of interpretive consumer research; those who seek to investigate the symbiosis between meaningful ways of life and the symbolic marketplace. Of those individuals who reside temporarily at the heart of this transition, whose reality is the centre of nowhere, theoretical contributions in relation to their consumption practices are indiscernible.

Firstly this research endeavour is positioned within the CCT framework. Analysis of literature then turns to the specifics of liminality itself, highlighting how its ideologies and characteristics offer a means of conceptualising those who are ‘no-longer-but-not- yet’, suspended temporarily within a socio-cultural miasma. The following research incorporates this lens of analysis to explore the consumer culture of one such miasmic group; tweens. Constructed by child sociologists and historians and reinforced by the marketplace as the epitome of an interstitial existence, the lived experience of a tween is explored using personal diaries, in-depth interviews and accompanied shopping trips. This longitudinal research project concluded that those in a shadowed reality, no longer children but not yet teens evolve from a fruitful darkness to a fruitful twilight through engagement with a form of metaconsumption which within this shadowed furnace of activity and regeneration, readies these social neophytes for the biggest performance of their lives.