Vulnerable Communities / Publication Abstract

Dehumanization and Restriction inside a Maximum Security Prison: Novel Insights about Consumer Acquisition and Ownership

Feb 23, 2016

Ronald Paul Hill, Daniel Cunningham, Gramercy Gentlemen

Vulnerable Communities


There are taken-for-granted assumptions about how consumer acquisition and ownership take place in typical consumption environments. However, there are also extraordinary contexts that disallow everyday access to and use of goods and services that barely meet essential needs for basic survival. One poignant example is total institutions, described by Goffman (1961) in negative terms as places where people are subject to involuntary confinement and, potentially, servitude. Since this initial discussion, many forms of institutionalization have decreased (e.g., for mentally ill), but others have increased as a result of political rhetoric around War on Drugs and Tough on Crime positions. As a result, millions of men and women have been incarcerated, and some spend decades or entire adult lives behind bars. While a literature base was spawned by this work, it has had a limited impact on consumer research. Thus, we heed the call from Denzin (2001) and use participatory action research to disclose, illuminate, and criticize dehumanizing processes and acquisition and ownership restrictions that manifest in a maximum security prison, along with coping strategies by inmates. Implications for transformative consumer research (TCR) on acquisition and ownership are offered in the close.

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