Daring consumer-oriented ethnography

Eric J. Arnould, Linda L. Price, Barbara B. Stern, Craig J. Thompson, Melanie Wallendorf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


The general question I address in this chapter is: “How can ethnography be used to formulate theoretically useful representations of consumer-related phenomena?�? The term consumer-oriented ethnography indicates my substantive focus: applying ethnographic methods to the study of consumer behaviors. The chapter builds on ethnographic and interpretive work conducted with several collaborators. The significance of these “interpretive communities�? in informing my understanding is reflected in the co-authorship with Price, Stern, Thompson, and Wallendorf. (This chapter draws heavily on Arnould and Wallendorf (1994).) The chapter has multiple objectives, corresponding to its main sections. In the first section, I discuss the goals of ethnography and then review the types, their particular contributions to representation, and the limitations of several techniques of data collection. In the second section, I discuss questions of ethnographic representation. In the third section, I articulate a model of interpretationconstruction that situates ethnographic data in a multi-layered representation of consumption phenomena. In the discussion, I review points of similarity and difference with related representational strategies and types of research issues for which ethnographic methods are appropriate. I conclude by indicating that ethnographic methods are appropriate for apprehending four main kinds of consumption and use situations. Throughout, examples are drawn from two ethnographic projects, one concerning U.S. Thanksgiving Day, and the other, commercial white water river rafting (Wallendorf and Arnould 1991; Arnould and Price 1993; Price et al. 1995; Arnould et al. 1997).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRepresenting Consumers
Subtitle of host publicationVoices, Views and Visions
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages42
ISBN (Electronic)9781134669875
ISBN (Print)9780415184137
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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