JMM Special Issue Call for Papers – The deadline for submissions has now passed

Consumption, Marketing, and Taboo

  • Guest Editor:  Gretchen Larsen, Durham University, UK
  • Guest Editor:  Maurice Patterson, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Men are swayed by two simultaneous emotions: they are driven away by terror and drawn by an odd fascination. Taboo and transgression reflect these two contradictory urges. The taboo would forbid the transgression but the fascination compels it.  (Bataille, 1962, p.68)

Taboo is elemental (Bataille, 1977; Douglas, 1966), a prohibition on behaviour that impacts upon our daily lives (Allan & Burridge, 2006). Douglas (1966) characterises taboo as part of the ordering work required to mark out and deal with matter out of place. Naturally enough, markets, marketing, and consumption are deeply implicated in the process of taboo (Sabri, Manceau & Pras, 2010) in that proscriptions regulate the ability of markets to provide access to consumption objects and activities, the nature of our contact with those objects and activities, and the manner in which we put them to use (Fowles, 2008; Pellandini-Simányi, 2014).

Roth (2007) suggests that taboos impose constraints on markets that are as significant as the constraints imposed by technology and the need for efficiency. Further, depending on the context, taboos can deleteriously or positively affect the marketing of a range of products such as those subject to religious censure (Muhamad & Mizerski, 2013), those connected to commercial intimacy, e.g. human tissue and organs, babies, human eggs, surrogacy, and sexuality (Fennel, 2009; Laufer-Ukeles, 2013), pharmaceutical solutions to taboo diseases, e.g. haemorrhoids (Wrobel, 2002), and even commodities as relatively banal as toilets, condoms, and burial products (Molotch, 2002). Meanwhile, the promotion of products, services, ideas and experiences through taboo appeals has long been a matter of debate as global competition forces advertisers to push boundaries in order to stand out from the crowd (Sabri, 2012).

Consumption of that which is considered taboo is often held as a disordered form of consumption (Douglas, 1966). And yet such consumption may also be considered necessary. As Campbell (2005) suggests, the very process of differentiation which serves as a prime motivator of consumption depends on the novelty of outrageous consumer conduct. Such consumption “is to be repressed, vilified, and condemned, but not eliminated, for such deviant consumption is also seen as vital to the maintenance of order” (Hirschman, 1991a, p.305). But we differ from Hirschman’s characterisation of these activities as part of the ‘dark side’ of consumer behaviour. Hirschman (1991b, p.4) argues: “All of these disturbing and disturbed behaviours result from consumption gone wrong. The dark side of consumer behaviour is ugly and unhappy, but it is, perhaps, not inevitable. Consumers could likely recover from these damaging behaviours, if adequate research were conducted into their origins and treatment”. It is our contention, however, following Wilk (1997), that taboo and distaste are central to processes of distinction in consumer society and have as much to say about contemporary consumer culture as consumption and desire.

Moreover, as Bataille (1977) underlines, people are torn between the urge to adhere to taboos, and the urge to transgress. Transgression, rather than being quashed by taboo, is actually a fundamental component of it (Fowles, 2008): “We feel the anguish of mind without which the taboo could not exist: that is the experience of sin. That experience leads to the completed transgression, the successful transgression which, in maintaining the prohibition, maintains it in order to benefit by it” (Bataille, 1977, p.39). The experience of sin, the understanding and feeling of it, provides its own masochistic pleasure and further serves to illuminate acceptable boundaries (Schacter, 2008) and helps to establish new moralities (Gollnhofer, 2015).

In this special issue, we welcome conceptual and empirical papers from different theoretical and methodological perspectives that examine the relationship between taboo, markets, marketing, consumption, and non-consumption.  Topics of interest for this issue include (but are not limited to):

  • taboo markets
  • taboo exchanges
  • taboo products
  • the impact of prohibition on products, marketing practices and/or consumption
  • deviant consumption
  • ‘dirty’ consumption
  • taboo in advertising
  • the sacred and profane nature of taboo
  • transgression in marketing and consumption
  • marketplace stigma
  • the role of taboo in the relationship between people, objects and the market

All manuscripts submitted must strictly follow the guidelines for the Journal of Marketing Management. These are available at:

Manuscripts should be submitted online using the Journal of Marketing Management ScholarOne Manuscripts site. New users should first create an account. Once a user is logged onto the site submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from the files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees. When uploading files authors will then be able to define the non-anonymous version as “Complete paper with author details”, and the anonymous version as “Main document minus author information”.

To submit your manuscript to the Special Issue choose “Special Issue Article” from the Manuscript Type list when you come to submit your paper. Also, when you come to the ‘Details and Comments’ page, answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is this manuscript a candidate for a special issue’ and select the Special Issue Title of Consumption, Marketing, and Taboo in the text field provided.

Informal queries regarding guest editors’ expectations or the suitability of specific research topics should be directed to the Special Issue Editors:
•    Dr Gretchen Larsen
•    Dr Maurice Patterson

Technical queries about submissions can be referred to the Editorial Office


Allan, K. & Burridge, K. (2006). Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bataille, G. (1962 [1957]). Erotism: Death and Sensuality. (M. Dalwood, Trans.). San Francisco: City Lights Books.
Campbell, C. (2005). The Desire for the New: Its Nature and Social Location as Presented in Theories of Fashion and Modern Consumerism. In R. Silverstone and E. Hirsch (Eds.) Media and Information in Domestic Spaces (pp.48 -64). London: Routledge.
Douglas, M. (1966). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Fennell, L. A. (2009). Adjusting Alienability. Harvard Law Review, 122(5), 1403-1465.
Fowles, S. (2008). Steps Toward an Archaeology of Taboo. In L. Fogelin (Ed.) Religion, Archaeology, and the Material World (pp.15-37). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Gollnhofer, J. (2015). Taste the Waste – Constructing New Moralities Through Taboo Consumption. In K. Diehl and C. Yoon (Eds.) Advances in Consumer Research (p. 542). Volume 43. Duluth, MN: Association for Consumer Research.
Hirschman, E. (1991a). Exploring the Dark Side of Consumer Behaviour: Metaphor and Ideology in Prostitution and Pornography. In J. Arnold Costa (Ed.) Gender and Consumer Behaviour (pp. 303-314). Volume 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Association for Consumer Research.
Hirschman, E. (1991b). Secular Mortality and the Dark Side of Consumer Behaviour: Or How Semiotics Saved My Life. In R. Holman and M. Solomon (Eds.) Advances in Consumer Research (pp. 1-4). Volume 18. Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.
Laufer-Ukeles, P. (2013). Mothering for Money: Regulating Commercial Intimacy. Indiana Law Journal, 88, 1223-1279.
Molotch, H. (2002). Place in Product. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26(4), 665-688.
Muhammad, N. & Mizerski, D. (2013). The Effects of Following Islam in Decisions about Taboo Products. Psychology and Marketing, 30(4), 357-371.
Sabri, O. (2012). Taboo Advertising: Can Humour Help Attract Attention and Enhance Recall? Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 20(4), 407-422.
Pellandini-Simányi, L. (2014). Consumption Norms and Everyday Ethics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Roth, A. (2007). Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(3), 37-58.
Sabri, O., Manceau, D & Pras, B. (2010). Taboo: An Underexplored Concept in Marketing. Recherche et Applications en Marketing, 25, 59-85.
Schacter, R. (2008). An Ethnography of Iconoclash: An Investigation into the Production, Consumption and Destruction of Street-art in London. Journal of Material Culture, 13(1), 35-61.
Wilk, R. (1997). A Critique of Desire: Distaste and Dislike in Consumer Behaviour. Consumption, Markets & Culture, 1(2), 175-196.
Wrobel, U. (2002). Not in Front of Your Mother: Online Marketing for Pharmaceutical Products Addressing Taboo Topics. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 5(1), 19-27.

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