PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (8): 1419-1429.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.08.014

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Progress and reflection of geographies of consumption from the perspective of new materialism

ZHAO Yizheng1,2, CHEN Pinyu1,2, KONG Xiang1,2,*()   

  1. 1. The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    2. School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Received:2020-08-03 Revised:2021-04-26 Online:2021-08-28 Published:2021-10-28
  • Contact: KONG Xiang
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771156);Fundamental Research Funds for Central Universties-Shared Cross Funds of East China Normal University(2019ECNU-GXJC002);ECNU Academic Innovation Promotion Program for Excellent Doctoral Students(YBNLTS2020-022)


There exist two types of epistemology of materialism in current fields of geographies of consumption. One follows the principles of re-materialization on the foundation of dualistic dialectical materialism raised by Marx. Another school relies on the ontology of monism, relationality, and process, which also makes a profound impact on the understanding of geographies of consumption. The latter is classified into the school of thought of new materialism, which provides a more subtle and comprehensive understanding of the nonlinear relationships among places, subjectivities, the environment, material, representation, and so on, endeavoring to break up the long-standing dualism in former research in consumption geography. Thus, this study reviewed and summarized the research progress of consumption geography studies from the perspective of new materialism in order to bring a new ontology and epistemology. Drawing from the actor network theory (ANT), assemblage theory, more than human theory, and nonrepresentational theory, studies followed new materialism highlight material agency, dynamics, and impact on consumption networks. Furthermore, this article indicates the shifting connotation of geographies of consumption: Material in consumption not only acts as the entry point of investigating social relations among people but also actively engages in the process of consuming practices or even reshapes the consumption space; Subjectivities of consumers are produced in events, processes, and relations instead of only produced by social construction or discourse; Socialities are transformed from the linear relationship between consumers and producers to topological relations among consumers, producers, and other nonhuman subjects. On the basis of these shifting contents, this article concludes three different categories of the research process: embodied consumption practice and consumers' subjectivity; consumption space and affect; lively commodities and human-nonhuman-place relationship. At the end of this article, some reflections and outlooks are brought to fill in the gaps of current geographies of consumption in China. New materialism provides a new entry point in understanding subjectivities and socialities in geographies of consumption, especially insightful in solving transformation of consumption pattern and sustainable consumption; lively commodities and consumers' affect; Internet, technology, and reconstruction of consumption space.

Key words: new materialism, geographies of consumption, agency of material, consumption space, lively commodity