Young Children and Consumer Media Cultures in Japan: Mothering, Peer Relationships, Social Identities and Consumption Practices
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This thesis, entitled Young Children and Consumer Media Cultures in Japan, explores the role of consumption practices in the social interactions and everyday lives of young children and mothers in a suburban context in Japan. With its focus on young children (aged between 1 and 5) and mothers as primary care-givers, it analyses how they experience consumer media culture while using, creating, controlling, transforming and adapting commercial goods and knowledge, and the part this plays in their presentation of self and their construction of interpersonal relationships in the home and the preschool. My PhD research was affiliated with the research project at Norwegian Centre for Child Research (NOSEB), “Consuming Children: Commercialisation and the Changing Construction of Childhood”, financed by the Norwegian Research Council from 2006-2009. The data were obtained through five months of fieldwork that involved ethnographic methods such as participant observation, interviews and home visits. The thesis is based on the perspectives of childhood studies, consumer culture theory and commercial enculturation. Following a discussion of theory and methods, it includes three analysis chapters. Chapter 5 focuses on mothers’ ideological dilemmas and their construction of identity through caring consumption. I explore how mothers take responsibility for products, services and experiences on behalf of their young children, while reflecting on children’s future becoming and present being. Chapter 6 focuses on young children’s sense of belonging in peer consumer culture. I explore the significance of children’s having and knowing in preschool settings and discuss how the meanings and values of certain possessions and forms of knowledge are consistently interpreted and transformed among peers. Chapter 7 focuses on flexible social identities, and in particular how children maintain different kinds of boundaries and transform cultural resources in play. I explore the ways in which consumption practices serve as tools for children’s construction of social identities. Ultimately, I argue that consumption is not a simple matter either of control or of free choice, and that researchers need to look beyond some of the dichotomies that have tended to characterise discussion of these issues. With this thesis I am hoping to make empirical, methodological, theoretical and disciplinary contributions to both childhood studies and consumption studies.