Presented by Prof. Joel Stillerman, Associate Professor (Department of Sociology, Grand Valley State University)
Scholars understand shopping malls as central commercial and social settings. Some argue that malls’ designs attract and seduce consumers, while others contend that mall authorities exclude vulnerable groups and prohibit free expression. Ethnographic studies, in contrast, document how consumers interpret and shape malls as social settings. Drawing on qualitative research in two Santiago, Chile malls, we contend that Santiago’s patterns of socioeconomic segregation and ample public transport facilitate cross-class interactions in malls. These characteristics encourage visitors to transpose practices and meanings from other public settings to the mall, drawing on rules for public interaction (Goffman 1963, 1971). Residents adapt mall infrastructures for non-commercial uses (Certeau 1984), and engage in informal and formal resistance, reflecting conflicts between abstract and social space (Lefebvre 1991). The analysis shows that distinctive urbanization patterns significantly shape how consumers access and use malls as social spaces.
For more information, or special accommodations, please contact the Area Studies office, email@example.com or 331-8110.