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Course Description

This course explores how the things we buy shape our personal identities and how individuals relate to corporations and advertisers, in the context of the emergence of modern consumer society from the 18th century to the present. It critically examines the shift from home-production economies to mass production. Examining how developments such as department stores, product branding, modern advertising, urbanization, and suburbanization have shaped society, politics, and the economy, the course provides a historical context for contemporary debates about consumer culture.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the learner should be able to:

  • Appreciate the value of an historical approach when analyzing consumer culture and consumer issues;
  • Critically analyze the origins and evolution of consumer culture in North America and to effectively explain these ideas in a written format, identifying and defining key issues;
  • Develop their own interpretations about issues in consumer culture based on ability to summarize and compare a broad range of readings and evidence from both primary and secondary sources;
  • Distinguish and compare the spatially and temporally specific ways consumer culture has both influenced and been influenced by a range of social, cultural, political, and economic developments;
  • Discuss consumer culture as an interplay between manufacturers, advertisers, sales people, and consumers, wherein individuals from each of these groups have occupied historically specific identities as a result of their relationships with consumption.

Course Topics

  • Consumer Behaviours in Colonial Contexts
  • Mass Production and the Emergence of Modern Commercial Spaces
  • Consumer Activism During the First Half of the 20th Century
  • A Postwar Consumers’ Paradise?
  • Consumer Culture Since the late-Cold War

Additional Requirements

Prerequisite(s): 2.00 credits



Weight %

Introduction Discussions


Course "Scavenger Hunt"


Discussion Assignments (2)


Short Essays (2)


"Canadians and their Catalogues" Primary Source Research


Take-Home Final Exam


Technical Requirements

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*Course details are subject to change.

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Section Title
Buying and Selling: Consumer Cultures
September 05, 2024 to November 29, 2024
Contact Hours
Delivery Options
Course Fee(s)
Domestic Tuition Fee (0.5 units) $683.39 Click here to get more information
Available for Credit
0.5 units
Reading List / Textbook
You may purchase your course textbook, or other required/supplementary reading and learning materials, from the University of Guelph Bookstore or the Guelph Campus Co-op Bookstore, or from another third-party seller.
Section Notes

Note:  If you are in a degree program at the University of Guelph, please DO NOT register using the link above.  You must register through WebAdvisor.

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