Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity

Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity

by Marilyn Halter
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In America today, you can connect to your ethnic heritage in dozens of ways, or adopt an identity just for an evening. Our society is not a melting pot but a salad bar--a bazaar in which the purveyors of goods and services spend close to $2 billion a year marketing the foods, clothing, objects, vacations, and events that help people express their (and others') ethnic…  See more details below

Overview

In America today, you can connect to your ethnic heritage in dozens of ways, or adopt an identity just for an evening. Our society is not a melting pot but a salad bar--a bazaar in which the purveyors of goods and services spend close to $2 billion a year marketing the foods, clothing, objects, vacations, and events that help people express their (and others') ethnic identities. This is a huge business, whose target groups are the "hyphenated Americans"--in other words, all of us.

As immigrant groups gain economic security, they tend to reinforce--not relinquish--their ethnic identification. Marilyn Halter demonstrates that, to a great extent, they do it by shopping. And their purchasing power is enormous. How has the marketplace responded to this hunger? Instantly and wholeheartedly: tweaking old products and inventing new ones; launching new brands in supermarkets, new music groups, vacation itineraries, language courses, toys, greeting cards, et cetera. This nexus of business and ethnicity is already seen as the hottest consumer development of this decade, and Halter is uniquely qualified to describe its origins, the exponential growth of products and advertising, and the phenomenal sales of items from salsa to Chieftains CDs.
She addresses her subject with an abundance of anecdotal evidence, telling examples of ethnic marketing, and interviews with entrepreneurs (many of them immigrants) who are vigorously seizing the opportunities offered by the business of ethnicity.

Shopping for Identity is provocative, intriguing, and farseeing, illuminating an important aspect of our contemporary way of life while validating the yearning we all feel for connection to our roots.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Black Barbies, a Northwest Orient advertisement urging Irish-Americans to fly to Dublin to "find their roots" and a Tetley Tea campaign suggesting that American Jews "think Yiddish" but "drink British" are only recent examples of advertisers' attempts over the last century to target consumers by appealing to their sense of ethnic and racial identity. In this highly engaging study, Halter (an associate professor of history at Boston University) traces the complicated history of ethnicity and consumption in the U.S. While the "melting pot" paradigm has been accepted with very little critique, Halter argues that such wholesale assimilation has never really occurred. She posits instead that individuals and groups have always tried to become Americans without losing the specificity of their ethnicity--a reality that is reflected in the marketing of consumer goods. While she focuses on how Alex Haley's Roots (1973) and the 1974 congressional Ethnic Heritage Act (which funded "initiatives that promote... distinctive cultures and histories") spurred the embrace of ethnic identity, Halter also documents that embrace in such fascinating occurrences as an 1895 article, "The Negro in Advertising," which ran in the advertising journal Printer's Ink, and a 1913 Proctor and Gamble campaign for kosher Crisco shortening that began: "The Hebrew Race Has Been Waiting 4,000 Years." Halter deftly conveys the sweep of her findings without ever glossing over her intriguing examples. Her refreshingly radical examination of U.S. history is an important addition to both cultural and ethnic studies. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Through examples of ads targeting American pluralism<-->from " nuts" to tracing one's Irish roots via an airline, Halter (history and American studies, Boston U.) studies the current marketing trend of catering to consumers' quest for ethnic identification. Includes terminology notes and extensive references. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A lucid examination of the recent trend in ethnic marketing that has become "an industry in its own right."

From the Publisher
"Original in premise, thoughtfully researched, and eminently readable"
—Joshua Glenn, Bostonia, Spring 2001

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307427700
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/18/2007
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
4 MB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Marilyn Halter, a member of the history department and the American Studies program at Boston University, is also a research associate at Boston University's Institute for the Study of Economic Culture. She is the author of Between Race and Ethnicity and the editor of New Migrants in the Marketplace. She lives in Lakeville, Massachusetts.


From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >