- Consumption and Gender in Southern Europe since the Long 1960s eds. by Kostis Kornetis, Eirini Kotsovili, and Nikolaos Papadogiannis
The edited volume Consumption and Gender in Southern Europe since the Long 1960s aims to address the transition processes to democratization in three countries of Southern Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) by focusing on aspects of consumer and gender transformations. This volume is a welcome addition to the research wave of transitology studies by offering a complementary while [End Page 586] fresh approach. Most of the scholarly literature on the transition processes to date emphasizes political and mainly institutional changes. This book succeeds in further problematizing the long democratic transitions in (post)authoritarian Southern Europe beyond traditional political and social science approaches (high politics) by bringing to the foreground various aspects of change in consumption models that are linked to gender. The rich collection of research articles offers original insights on popular politics, aiming thus to build a bottom-up narrative of the economic, social, and cultural aspects of transition and modernization in the region.
Focusing on how transitions from dictatorships to democracy are reflected in changes in consumption patterns and gender roles, the book brings to our attention the sociocultural dynamics of consumption and related practices. Given the proliferation of studies of (mass) consumption focused on postwar democracies in Northwestern Europe and the US, the volume suggests an expanded historiographical eye, having as case-studies three Southern European countries which have experienced authoritarian regimes, as "they offer an ideal testing ground for a comparative and transnational analysis of consumption and gender" (1). As the editors claim in their introduction, there is "no uniform 'Southwestern plus Greek' Long Sixties version" (7). They also note that individual national transition processes are far from linear. To begin addressing these gaps, the volume enriches the Long Sixties research agenda of cultural revolution and counterculture narratives with a focus on the emancipatory aspects of commodified and gendered everyday life. Furthermore, it points out conservative gender hierarchies of the dictatorial regimes as well as compound paths towards modernization. Another thread that ties these three countries together is the recent economic crisis, which forces a rigorous critique of the socioeconomic and cultural conditions, known as the culture of Μεταπολίτευση (Metapolitefsi, Regime change), which led—among other things—to the current crisis.
The editors and contributions approach consumer culture through the lens of cultural studies. They decisively distance themselves from determinist readings of mass consumption and capitalist manipulation. Instead they pay attention to the processes, lifestyles, leisure spaces, commodities, material culture, bodily performances, purchasing habits, and desires that everyday consumption becomes. This is a way of acting and an art of poiesis/making, according to Michel de Certeau (1984). Consumers are thus conceived not as passive receivers of goods and culture but as creative producers of models of living, which include their gender roles and identities. The volume expands on the work of Victoria de Grazia and Ellen Furlough (1996) on the transformative [End Page 587] power of consumption with regards to gender construction by further "Localizing the 'Model Mrs Consumer'" (8). That is to say, it historicizes these transformations within the broader economic and technological advances that coincided with liberalization of political institutions and the modernization climate in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. The articles of the volume discuss how transformations in consumption patterns reflect on gender construction, as well as how gender and sexuality have been materially constructed, performed, and challenged since the Sixties. For example, from the fashion star system to electric appliances, the emergent material culture introduced in Portugal during the 1960s shaped female roles while also revolutionizing them, as described by Brasão. On the other hand, social mobility in the Greek 1980s is reflected by changes in social norms of house entertainment and spec-tatorships, as well as by gender representations in VCR movies, as discussed by Kasavetti. Such approaches help us consider the transition process also as an entry point to postmodernity, profoundly defined by the politics of subjectivity, egalitarian populism...