Brands represent shared systems of value that are actively maintained through material, technical and institutional devices. Papers in this panel engage with brands as sites of production articulating needs and desires, and entrenched into shifting labor power relations.
Brands and their omnipresent logos are hallmarks of mass culture and prosperity that are instrumental in the shaping of consumption markets and industrial capitalism in various local, national and regional contexts. Additionally, brands and their marketing strategy also inexorably foster planned obsolescence, promote excessive consumption, and thereby encourage disposability at an accelerated pace. The panel questions how brands can be understood as sites of production and overproduction structuring powerful regimes of accumulation at different scales. While consumers' compliance, subjugation and exploitation have long been targeted by brands, marketing strategies turning consumers into active participants to uphold and safeguard the value of brands through digital media recently gained considerable momentum. For brand-owned firms preserving these collaborative contexts of consumption and protecting their trademark is ever more crucial, as compared to the material production of actually existing goods bearing the brands' logos. These developments call for new ways of thinking about the articulations between production, distribution and consumption. Not only consumers' role and ability to perpetrate and reproduce a brand take up various meanings in different settings and challenge existing ideas of brand authenticity and originality, but also powerful marketing mechanisms tremendously impact the manufacturing and commodification of goods themselves and generate wasteful dynamics.
The panel addresses these issues related to brands simultaneously and seeks papers drawing from ethnographic fieldwork, which trace brands and challenge their creative valuation, institutional mechanisms of protection, material production, popular appropriation and counterfeiting in different sites.