Special Issue: Consuming the Spiritual
Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 35, 2019 – Issue 5-6


Consumer spirituality
Katharina C. Husemann & Giana M. Eckhardt


The market for transformation
Philip Kotler
Most people remain who they are through their whole life. If they are happy, they rarely seek to change. However, if they are unhappy, they might spend time with psychiatrists, drugs and support groups. They may try to lose weight or go on a vegan diet or have plastic surgery. They may resort to travel, change their occupations or spouses or take other steps to achieve more satisfaction in life.
I always had an interest in people who try to become a different person; people who are trying to trade in their current persona for another and hopefully better one. These people often seek out some sort of spiritual experience to achieve ‘transformation’. But what does this mean from a marketing perspective? How can marketers create and market a service helping an unhappy person transform to a ‘better self’ …Read more>

Spiritual myths of consumption: puritanism, transcendentalism and the consubstantiation of the American consumer
Roy Suddaby
Contemporary consumer trends in America are profoundly influenced by the enduring religious values of Puritanism and the more secular spiritual values of Transcendentalism. Both belief systems have deeply penetrated American collective memory. While they share common historical roots, the tensions that emerge from their differences describe a typology of three enduring collective myths of American culture – the Myth of the American Dream, the Myth of the American Adam and the Myth of American Exceptionalism. These myths, in turn, define three contemporary consumer movements – Voluntary Simplicity, Transformational Consumption and Radical Consumption ...” Read more>

A Buddhist approach to consumption
Phap Hai Thich
Typically we think of consumption in terms of material objects however consumption can be understood on many levels. In the vijananavada or Mind Only school of Buddhist Psychology, which underpins much of the currently popular practice of ‘mindfulness’, consumption is considered within a much broader framework of material objects, sensory input, motivation – as well as consciousness itself. Once a basic understanding of these four aspects of consumption is achieved, we begin to notice how we nurture certain states of being within ourselves and others and become cognizant of the capacity to be able to selectively choose what to nurture. This understanding is then a concrete and transformative mindfulness method …Read more>

Spirits in the marketplace
Julie L. Ozanne & Samuelson Appau
Good research demands that researchers are reflexive, understanding that all findings are socially constructed and susceptible to the unacknowledged interests of the researcher. When studying the consumption of religion and spirituality, how does a researcher mitigate a potential secularist worldview to consider consumers’ alternative metaphysical assumptions? And when these alternative worldviews posit divine and occult forces, how should the researcher study and theorise these forces? Based on our research of Pentecostalism in Ghana, we offer four suggestions. First, we demonstrate the importance of delineating the socio-historical context of our informants’ worldview. Second, we encourage exploring the potential of indigenous methods that may be more culturally sensitive; in this case, we show how religious testimony offers new insights as a way of knowing that is consistent with our informants’ worldview. Third, we advocate theorising within the frame of the indigenous metaphysical worldviews, such as understanding the religious testimonies as affective performances. Finally, we reflect on the benefits of moving beyond reflexivity to paths of action that seek rapprochement among differing worldviews …Read more>


‘Jesus, take the wheel’: the appeal of spiritual products in satiating concerns about randomness
Steven Shepherd & Aaron C. Kay
Why are consumers drawn to spiritual products? Leveraging theorising regarding the psychological need to perceive the world as orderly and non-random, we posit that products imbued with religious/spiritual significance help manage concerns about randomness and uncontrollability (e.g. when a product is unreliable or exposes the consumer to random uncontrollable processes). When randomness concerns were salient, religious consumers showed increased desire to attach religious significance to secular objects (e.g. having item blessed, physically attaching a religious symbol). For spiritual consumers, spiritual products (vs. non-spiritual physically equivalent products) were seen as having (i) non-material efficacy (i.e. efficacy not bound to the purely material world) and (ii) unfalsifiable efficacy (i.e. efficacy that is immune to contrary evidence). Evidence is found across a variety of religious and spiritual contexts …Read more> Read the blog>

How does religion discipline the consumer subject? Negotiating the paradoxical tension between consumer desire and the social order
Ateeq Abdul Rauf, Ajnesh Prasad & Abdullah Ahmed
In this article, we revisit Russell Belk, Guliz Ger and Soren Askegaard’s study on consumer desire. We do so in an effort to further advance the extant understanding of desire in consumer research. Specifically, informed by Lacanian psychoanalytic thought and sharing much affinity with Foucault’s central argument in The History of Sexuality, we consider how the institution of religion functions as a disciplining force by which to mediate the (potential) conflict between human desire and the social order. For the purposes of this article, we focus our analytical gaze on how consumption practices have the disciplinary effect of regulating desire. That is to say, we illuminate how religion (and religious ideology) dictates certain consumption practices, which ultimately perform to ensure that the pursuit of desire does not contravene the pre-existing social order that structures society and organises social relating. To animate our theoretical claims, we draw on a qualitative study of the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic sub-culture originating in South Asia. This article builds on extant sociological and anthropological studies that have captured the nexus between religion and the workings of the marketplace. However, unlike past studies, the question posited at the crux of this article concerns desire and, particularly, how desire becomes subjected to the discourses pertaining to religiously prescribed consumption practices … Read more>

‘If it comes from Juazeiro, it’s blessed’! Liquid and solid attachment in systems of object itineraries of pilgrimages
Jannsen Santana & Delane Botelho
Building on an interpretive approach, we employ the multi-sited ethnographic methods of ‘following the thing’ and ‘following the people’ to track the movements of consumers and objects during a Catholic pilgrimage in the Northeast region of Brazil. We find a system of object itineraries that exemplifies how pilgrims liquefy and solidify attachments to objects to relate to God and saints during movements between their home and the sacred site. We expand perceptions by showing how materiality and relevance to the self can be important even in liquidity. Our findings have implications to the understanding of consumption of the spiritual and liquid/solid attachment to sacred objects …Read more>

From caterpillar to butterfly: experiencing spirituality via body transformation
Andrea Hemetsberger, Maria Kreuzer & Melanie Klien
Consumers increasingly seek out the spiritual to enlighten their inner emptiness and find their inner selves. We add a physiological, embodied perspective, which has been commonly overlooked in extant research as a valuable opportunity for individual consumer spirituality. Interpretative investigation of body-transforming consumers uncovers a powerful reincarnation process that eventually leads to the self-renewal and reunion of body and mind. We find that the consumption of body-transforming substances initiates a mindful, spiritual consumer journey allowing consumers to actively develop and experience their inner spirituality through recurring cycles of reduction, reflection and release. These findings allow us to develop implications for a broader understanding of consumer spirituality where the active consumer seeks unity in the self and beyond … Read more>

Pain, suffering and the consumption of spirituality: a toe story
Véronique Cova & Bernard Cova
The article addresses spiritual consumption from a corporal perspective, with a specific focus on pain and suffering as vehicles to a higher spiritual state. It applies a comparative auto-ethnography of the pain that people participating in two pilgrimages – the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain and the Quebec Compostela in Canada – feel in their toes and uses this to discuss how the experience and manifestation of pain actualises the spiritual experience. The results show that corporal pain transforms into a spiritual experience in the way that it connects to both the spiritual features associated with a particular context and the spiritual capital of the person experiencing the pain. They also reveal that displaying corporal pain during rituals – much like the sense of communion that is generated through the act of sharing – fosters further transformations leading to spiritual experiences …Read more>

A discourse analysis of pilgrimage reviews
Tom van Laer & Elif Izberk-Bilgin
This article is the first to provide an account of the discursive features of online consumer reviews of pilgrimage sites. Drawing from pilgrimage studies and narrativity theory in consumer research, the authors explore how consumers communicate the spiritual and material aspects of pilgrimage experiences by examining a corpus of 833 consumer reviews on TripAdvisor of the most sacred pilgrimage sites of the world’s major five faith groups. Pilgrims include analytical discursive features to communicate the material aspect of their consumption experience. They reserve narration for spiritual transformation and the experience of strong emotions. Moreover, review ratings are only reflective of the spiritual aspect of their consumption experience. As such, this research complements previous studies by highlighting the material, physical aspect of this extraordinary consumption experience …Read more>

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