Living in Harmony with Nature: A Post-Human Analysis of Consumers’ Relationships with Nature
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Living in harmony with nature is a pervasive ideology, or cultural blueprint, of how a "sustainable future,” a "good society,” and a "fulfilled life" would look like. However, this notion of harmony with nature is highly paradoxical, as consumers often want and even must dominate and control nature. The current thesis explores consumers’ desires of living in harmony with nature through a post-human analysis of how backcountry hikers negotiate tensions between utilitarian and romantic discourses of nature vis-à-vis their experience of material forces of nature. Through conceptualizing nature as an active actor in a symmetric assemblage of material and cultural entities (i.e., nature agency), this thesis contributes to our understanding of the human/nature relationship, materialism, and sustainable consumption. Findings are presenting through three interrelated themes. The first theme highlights how hikers appropriate romantic discourses by seeking harmony in a nature that is perceived as external to civilization. Noting the contradiction that hikers’ quest for being in harmony with a “romantic nature” oftentimes exposes them to higher physical dangers in material nature, the subsequent themes explore how harmony can arise when hikers have to struggle with physical dangers of nature. Focusing on physical dangers that are experienced in material nature, theme 2 finds that hikers’ relationship with nature is highly ambivalent: They strive to experience “more nature and less civilization”, but also “more civilization and less nature.” The third theme explores how meanings of nature and technology emerge from fluidly shifting assemblages, finding that the same technological resources can both distract from and enable feelings of harmony with nature. These findings contribute to consumer research by broadening our understanding of the human/nature relationship and by challenging previous notions (Canniford and Shankar 2013) that technology and civilization must always betray consumers’ experiences of “romantic nature.” Furthermore, the notions of nature agency and that no single actor can unilaterally shape the assemblage of heterogeneous entities contribute to the emerging material turn in consumer research. Finally, this post-human analysis of consumers’ relationships with nature offers theoretical and practical implications for sustainable consumption and sustainable marketing.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/8609
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