Mona Moufahim, Durham University, UK
Victoria Wells, University of Sheffield, UK
Guest Editor: Robin Canniford, University of Melbourne, Australia
More than twenty years of research has elevated community to a theoretical and analytical touchstone for marketing and consumer researchers (Arnould & Thompson, 2005; Gainer & Fischer, 1994). From early conceptions of consumption subcultures (Schouten & McAlexander, 1995; Kates, 2002), through brand communities (Muniz & O’Guinn, 2002; McAlexander, Schouten & Koenig, 2002; Schau, Muniz & Arnould, 2009), and latterly, consumer tribes (Cova, 1997; Cova, Kozinets & Shankar, 2012), research on marketing and consumer behaviour has applied and developed conceptual tools to understand how people construct more or less dense webs of interpersonal interactions, and more or less durable attachments to shared territories and identities within market societies (Arvidsson, 2013).
Despite broad acceptance in the marketing literature, criticisms can be levelled against some common conceptualisations of community. In particular, the placing of clear conceptual borders around social activity by calling it ‘brand community’, or otherwise, requires ‘purifications’ (Latour, 1996), deliberate simplifications of hybrid and complex realities that serve the purpose of labelling and managing phenomena. These clear conceptual boundaries have resulted in representations of community that have become popular by virtue of their offering managers handles on slippery marketplace phenomena (Canniford, 2011; Lee, 2009).
Nevertheless, such managerial handles tend to reflect as much about the politics and purpose of management as they do about the communities they describe. Moreover, neatly bounded categories might be considered to reproduce a worldview that stops short of considering instances where communities flow into each other, fail to gel, or forces such as ‘affect and atmospheres’ that mediate communities as ‘social flows’ via shared emotions and embodied experiences (Hill, Canniford & Mol, 2013; Ingold, 2011; Thrift, 2008).
In response to these critiques, emerging work is exploring differences that occur within communities of consumers and the practical ways in which differences are created and negotiated (Arsel & Bean 2013; Thomas, Price & Schau, 2013). Equally, marketing scholarship is tackling issues of boundary construction and maintenance in markets that are framed as dynamic cultural systems (Scaraboto & Fischer, 2013; Weinberger, 2015).
This emerging work challenges romanticized, mono-cultural, or static views of community. Instead, community is placed within constantly shifting figurations of subjects and materialities in manners that link micro-practice with broader structural changes in society (Askegaard & Linnet, 2011; Sinclair & Dolan, 2015). These perspectives illustrate how community can be dynamic and problematic, at times disintegrative and self-destructive, controlling and restrictive (Goulding, Shankar & Canniford, 2013; Joseph, 2002; Paulsen, 2014).
Most recently, work questioning the ethics of online and social media conceptualisations and practices of community has begun to emerge. Cappellini and Yen (2016) explore mothers’ experience of displacement in online communities for example. Furthermore, Zwick and Bradshaw (2016) conceptualise online customer communities as ideological devices of contemporary social media marketing practices, which symbolically resolve marketing’s contradictions that arise with participatory media. In turn, Arvidsson and Caliandro (2015) propose the concept of ‘brand public’, as a label to capture/describe current modes of online participation (characterised by a lack of interaction) and various discursive practices between consumers.
Against this vibrant background, this special issue calls for the continued questioning of community as a unit of analysis, a mode of theorising, as a protean and contested practice, and as a managerial handle. After decades of research, what else is there to learn about community? Is the ‘community’ concept richer and more complex than prior marketing research would have us believe? It might be argued that an overly straightforward understanding of community within our discipline contrasts with scholarship in the fields of politics, sociology, anthropology and psychology for instance, where concepts of community are more contested and span a broader range of historical, cultural and discursive dimensions (Ince, 2011).
In addition to a need to ‘dig deeper’ in the conception of community, there is a demand for greater understanding from the marketplace itself, a range of organisations within it and potential policy to support communities in the face of intersecting pressures from corporations and government. The concept of community has become an increasingly important element in planning social welfare, understood as a means of organising service delivery, healthcare, and encompassing a range of (often antagonistic) actors such as voluntary organisations, businesses and working-class populations in certain areas (MacLeavy, 2008; Holgersen & Haarstad, 2009; Ince, 2011). Further to this, we ask who and what counts in communities – issues of age and social isolation, loneliness (Seabrook, 1973), and animals as mediators of community (Bettany & Daly, 2008; Smith, 2015) are vital topics for investigation.
In sum, we seek papers that challenge and expand conventional views of community within marketing and consumer research. We encourage authors to draw on critical and multidisciplinary conceptualisations of community; to reflect both the positives and negatives of communities; and to build on current policy and organisation interest in community to enrich marketing theory and practice. We welcome both conceptual essays and empirical papers that approach topics including, but not limited to:
- Welfare issues in community
- Community-based social marketing
- Communal identity issues (race, gender, sexual orientation, animals, etc.)
- Interspecies communities
- Isolated/rural issues of community
- Communities of practice
- Practices and politics in digital communities
- Community enterprises/Community Entrepreneurialism
- Co-operative communities (e.g. in the form of pubs, shops, and currencies)
- Politics in and of community
- Community breakdown, conflict and dysfunction
- Utopian/Heterotopian/Dystopian communities
- Mobile communities
- Communities of resistance, activism and change
- Consumption communities at/in work
- Organisation/management of community
- (New) forms of exchange in community
- Rules, rituals, roles, and relationships in community
Manuscripts should be submitted online using the Journal of Marketing Management ScholarOne Manuscripts site (http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rjmm). New users should first create an account. Once a user is logged onto the site submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from the files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees. When uploading files authors will then be able to define the non-anonymous version as “Complete paper with author details”, and the anonymous version as “Main document minus author information”. To submit your manuscript to the Special Issue choose “Special Issue Article” from the Manuscript Type list when you come to submit your paper. Also, when you come to the ‘Details and Comments’ page, answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is this manuscript a candidate for a special issue’ and select the Special Issue Title of Consumption, Politics & Transformation of Community in the text field provided. Please ensure that the required summary statement of contribution focuses on the novel and frontier aspects of the submission.
Informal queries regarding guest editors’ expectations or the suitability of specific research topics should be directed to the Special Issue Editors:
- Mona Moufahim, Durham University, UK
- Victoria Wells, University of Sheffield, UK
- Robin Canniford, University of Melbourne, Australia
Technical queries about submissions can be referred to the Editorial Office
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