Theses and Dissertations - UTB/UTPA

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. A. Fuat Firat

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Minor

Third Advisor

Dr. Mohammadali Zolfagharian


Co-optation theory has evolved such that the cultural friction between consumer agency and the market provides an eternal source of marketing opportunities for marketers to culturally rejuvenate their businesses. The relevant literature studying consumer identity, however, precludes docile consumers from the analyses and theorization process. Given the theoretical incompleteness, this dissertation first expounds the nature of consumer agency by studying consumer cultural conditions cultivated and entrenched since modern epoch. Consumers‘ varied levels of ability to signify and their urge for distinctiveness are two cultural conditions that can capture the quintessence of consumer agency. Second, this study delves into the possibility that consumers overcome the given cultural quality, employ different (re)presentations of consumer culture for their identity projects, and consequently contribute to the market dynamics. Ethnographic data collected from the context of X Games help explicate the elements of consumer cultural quality based on emerging themes of ability to signify and urge for distinctiveness. The themes of the construct of ability to signify demonstrate that dialectical negotiation of identity contributes much less than postulated in the literature to the performance of consumer identity project in terms of true presentation of idiosyncratic self-identity. In addition, consumers in the context tend to be iconoclastic, narcissistic, and naturalistic distinction-makers with their new currency for distinction: cool. The consumer-market dynamics impeccably operates based upon interactions and mutual facilitations among four theoretically and empirically distinct groups of consumers: pragmatic, stigmatized, distinction-oriented, and self-normalizing consumers. The historic conflict between consumers and the market steeped in Hegelian dialectics is again contested in the dynamics due to the switch of modes(arts) of being(consumption) made by individual consumers who respectively participate in the system through presentation and representation. Accordingly, a new perspective of consumers as cyborgs, based on posthumanism, is discussed. Some theoretical considerations of gender and race issues in such dynamics are also proposed.


Copyright 2010 Soonkwan Hong. All Rights Reserved.

Granting Institution

University of Texas-Pan American

Included in

Business Commons