In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geographies of Consumption

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Readers
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Consumption Histories

Geography Geographies of Consumption
Juliana Mansvelt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0054


The 1980s through the early 21st century saw a relative explosion in consumption research within geography. Geographers have explored how different spaces of consumption are produced and exist in relation to each other at scales from the global to the body. They have examined sites such as homes, gardens, spaces of first- and secondhand retailing, places of work, the Internet, and consumption in rural, urban, and First- and Third-World contexts with a particular focus on consumption as it is manifest in geographies and practices of everyday life. Efforts to understand the spatiality, sociality, and subjectivities associated with consumption have been informed by a range of theoretical perspectives and approaches, including research deriving from other disciplines such as cultural and feminist studies, political ecology, anthropology, and sociology. More recently, research has been informed by post-structural, nonrepresentational, and postcolonial practice and assemblage theories and approaches. In the late 20th century, many consumption geographers sought to overcome dichotomous constructions of production and consumption and culture and economy by attending to the connections between these spheres. Research on commodity chains and networks, sustainability, and the transnational constitution of consumption as well as on the relationship between the material and non-representational aspects of practice have further eroded such binaries. Some of these approaches have centered on following the social and spatial lives of commodities while others have focused on the identity/subjective/affective functions of consumption, including an examination of race, gender, sexuality, age, social and familial relationships, and bodies and mobilities. The socialities associated with consuming have long been studied, but, more recently, consumption has been understood in the context of wider social and/or commodity practices, such as household provisioning, work, or gifting. Commodity studies of food and apparel have been predominant, but music, health services, consumer durables, drugs, and alcohol also feature. Over time, the focus of research on consumer practices has broadened the scope of consumption research from purchase and acquisition to considering the appropriation, use, and reuse of commodities to matters of disposal and wasting. Discussions of the politics and effects of consumption on environmental/climate change have highlighted the possibilities and limitation of current consumption practices for communities, places, and the environment. A concern with these issues has meant geographers are well placed to contribute to debates on the governance and implementation of more sustainable futures.

General Overviews and Readers

Consumption research has expanded rapidly since the 1980s, but the emergence of geographies of consumption has earlier origins. Included here is the call of Hecock and Rooney 1968 for greater geographic engagement in consumption. A textbook, Mansvelt 2005 outlines the breath of geographies of consumption scholarship as it emerged in the 2000s. Evans 2019, a definitional piece, is helpful in conceptualizing consumption. and Cook and Crang 2016 and MacKinnon and Cumbers 2019 provide excellent summaries of geographical work. Leslie 2020, an encyclopedia entry, and Crewe 2011 extend the discussion of geographies of consumption beyond purchase to include connections to production and to the use, appropriation, and disposal of commodities. Goodman, et al. 2010 examines the way people, things, and places are connected through consumption across a range of contexts and topics. MacKinnon and Cumbers 2019 provides a readable introduction to consumption as a cultural and economic process and specific examples of the changing geographies associated with retailing. Davies, et al. 2014 focuses on a growing field of consumption, one connected with everyday consumption practices and their connections to sustainability.

  • Cook, Ian, and Philip Crang. “Consumption and Its Geographies.” In An Introduction to Human Geography. Edited by Peter Daniels, Michael Bradshaw, Denis Shaw, James Sidaway, and Tim Hall, 379–398. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2016.

    This chapter examines economic geographies of consumption, branding, and marketing as well as consumption spaces and spatialities and the disconnections that can occur between consumers and the geographies of the commodities they produce.

  • Crewe, Louise. “Geographies of Retailing and Consumption: The Shopping List Compendium.” In The SAGE Handbook of Economic Geography. Edited by Andrew Leyshon, Roger Lee, Linda McDowell, and Peter Sunley, 304–319. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446201114.n21

    Uses shopping lists as starting point to consider the relational geographies that comprise retailing and consumption. The author highlights the value of mundane items and practices of consumption in providing insights into the nature of cultural economies and processes of value creation.

  • Davies, Anna R., Frances Fahy, and Henrike Rau. Challenging Consumption: Pathways to a More Sustainable Future. London: Routledge, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203386026

    This book examines research on sustainabsle consumption from a range of conceptual perspectives and topics centered on four themes: living, moving, dwelling, and futures.

  • Evans, David M. “What Is Consumption, Where Has It Been Going, and Dies It Still Matter?” The Sociological Review 67.3 (2019): 499–517.

    DOI: 10.1177/0038026118764028

    Offers a useful discussion of how consumption has been understood within social sciences and how it might be conceptualized in terms of practices of acquisition, appropriation, appreciation, devaluation, divestment, and disposal.

  • Goodman, Michael K., David Goodman, and Michael Redclift, eds. Consuming Space Placing Consumption in Perspective. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

    The authors use a relational perspective to examine the ways in which spaces and places are (re)made through practices, imaginaries, and materialities of consumption. Based on empirical research from a range of First- and Third-World contexts, chapters examine the connections between production and consumption.

  • Hecock, Richard D., and John F. Rooney. “Towards a Geography of Consumption.” Professional Geographer 20.6 (1968): 392–395.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0033-0124.1968.00392.x

    An early engagement with geographies of consumption. Hecock and Rooney, writing at a time when positivist spatial science was dominant, argue that the neglect of consumption in studies of economic geography was not due to a lack of statistical data, but rather a lack of utilization of it.

  • Leslie, Deborah. “Consumption.” In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. 2d ed. Edited by Audrey Kobayashi, 383–389. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2020.

    DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-08-102295-5.10247-1

    This article defines consumption and examines how it has been approached by geographers, emphasizing theoretical and politicized perspectives and arguing for greater engagement by economic geographers.

  • MacKinnon, Danny, and Andrew Cumbers. “Consumption and Retail.” In An Introduction to Economic Geography: Globalization, Uneven Development and Place. 3d ed. By Danny MacKinnon and Andrew Cumbers, 309–330. New York: Routledge, 2019.

    Focusing primarily on changes in retailing, this readable chapter provides a reflection on the economic significance of consumption and retailing across place (including online space). Highlights the necessity of understanding consumption as both an economic and a cultural process that has a spatial manifestation.

  • Mansvelt, Juliana. Geographies of Consumption. London: SAGE, 2005.

    This book remains a primary monograph in geography on consumption. With chapters on histories, spaces, bodies, identities, production and consumption connections, and ethics, the author advocates a relational and situated view of consumption that extends beyond retailing to the ways in which people interact with commodities in/across a range of contexts.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.