My research addresses the interface between media texts and consumer culture. My work aims to deconstruct the ways in which commercial discourses promote very particular narratives of self-identity (as shaped primarily by forms of consumption and self-commoditisation), visibility and appearance (as the dominant form of public connection), and relationships of power (regulated by market exchange and the internalised gaze). I argue that one of the reasons that consumer culture has become so naturalized and ubiquitous a feature of everyday life is the role that media texts play in ‘selling’ it. As such, it is crucial to critically analyse those texts, in order to deconstruct the discursive mechanics of consumer media and give a detailed account of how neoliberal ethics are communicated in commercial media. I am currently working on a project that seeks to map the ways in which consumption in the global south is mediated, and to draw comparisons between case studies in South Africa, Brazil, China and India. This research has been funded by an NRF Thuthuka Grant (2012-2014), a Carnegie Large Research Grant for 2012 through the Carnegie Corporation Transformation Programme at Wits, an Andrew W Mellon Foundation Research Grant for Younger Scholars (2012).
Some empirical fragments and links to various analytical publications related to my first book can be found at The Newsstand Project website (see www.thenewsstandproject.org). I have also been involved in establishing an interdisciplinary, national network of academic scholarship concerned with consumer culture in South Africa, the Critical Research in Consumer Culture (CRiCC) network (see www.consumerculturenetwork.wordpress.com) which held a Symposium in November 2012, and a south-south Consumption Studies workshop in November 2013 (funded by a university SPARC grant). I have also worked collaboratively in research exploring pedagogical issues in media, communications and cultural studies with a colleague based in the UK, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum's (see http://wethinkingtheclassroom.wordpress.com/te-workshops/).