Gifts, Romance, and Consumer Culture
How do people communicate their romantic feelings? Gift giving is one way. Giving and receiving of gifts is a characteristic of intimate relationships. Gifts are a message, a form of communication with a tangible material object, about love, affection, or concern for the recipient. The “romantic gift” evokes a multitude of intertwined meanings: passion, intimacy, affection, persuasion, care, celebration, altruism, and nostalgia. They can also connote the negative images of obligation and reciprocity. Romantic gift giving may be practiced at rituals, during rites of passage, or for casual occasions, to affirm the continued importance of the romantic relationship. We may even romanticize the giving of gifts to the self, to nonhuman companions, and to others we do not know personally. If loving and giving are a practice, then romantic gift giving is a practice of loving with intimate—or would-be intimate—others.
This book addresses gift giving among consumers attempting to express and construct romantic love. It lies at the intersection of consumption, markets, and culture. In societies shaped by the globalizing neo-liberal economic order, increasing wealth disparity, and a partially digitized social environment that they help to co-construct, it may be time to rethink romantic love. Gift giving is a key arena to do so, as gifts make love tangible and act as carriers of meaning as well as cultural symbols.
In gift giving the meanings of romance are renewed, renegotiated, and reconstructed. Gifts, Romance, And Consumer Culture demonstrates a wide variety of scholarly work bearing on romantic gift giving using an interpretive consumer research perspective. The book introduces critical studies by scholars in this unfolding and new interdisciplinary field.