Grégoire Wallenborn and Harold Wilhite: Rethinking embodied knowledge and household consumption

Published in Energy Research & Social Science


Mainstream theories on household energy consumption are characterized by reductionist assumptions about consumers and the socio-material contexts of choice. Much of the social science attention on consumption has focused on mental states, meaning, cognition, and rational choice. In mainstream theory, body is collapsed into mind and the demand for goods is both disembodied and decontextualized from social and material worlds. These reductions hinder the development of a robust theory of consumption and new thinking in energy savings policy. In this paper we bring the body back to consumption. We argue that people's exposure to practices, both in the form of personal and culturally mediated experience, embodies knowledge (and meanings) and this in turn affects the ways we perform energy-consuming acts. We draw on work on body, habitus and perception by anthropologists Marcel Mauss, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-Pierre Warnier, and philosopher Bergson, as well as more recent perspectives framed under the heading of social practice theory.

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Published May 26, 2014 11:00 AM