Accepted Paper:

Ambivalent Americanization: consumer culture and supermarkets in Italy  


Emanuela Scarpellini (University of Milan)

Paper short abstract:

American-style supermarkets appear in Italy in the late Fifties and, with their presence, challenge the local structure of small stores. They bring new exotic and processed food, new selling methods and finally affect the traditional patterns of consumption. This paper analyses consumers’ reactions and the adaptations used to adapt to a different material culture.

Paper long abstract:

This paper deals with the first appearance of 'American supermarkets' in Italy in the late Fifties. Their presence affects the traditional trade structure, formed by a net of small family-owned stores, as well as the local food industry. These new 'containers' change the traditional urban environment in many ways and become symbols of a new world of affluence, mirrors of a certain image of modernity.

Part of their message lies in the kind of food they offer to consumers. New exotic products are now available from distant countries; frozen food appears for the first time; cans of every kind are at hand; international brands (promoted by an increasing advertising) are present on the shelves. Even the everyday traditional products look different: they are already prepared, washed, processed, packed and ready to use. This change in material culture deeply influences traditional patterns of consumption and the way customers prepare and conceive their meals.

The paper will analyse consumers' reactions and examine different categories of clients (according to class and gender differences) and finally the many adaptations 'American supermarkets' use to adapt to a different culture and a diverse environment.

Panel W120
'America' abroad: the good, the bad and the ugly (MAC workshop II)