Shopping Town

Shopping malls.jpg

If you have seen Romero's zombie movie "Dawn of the Dead", you will remember how the survivors of the epidemy of zombies shelter in an area of a big shopping mall. They gradually conquer this space from the zombies that keep on trying to get in the mall because "some kind of instinct, a memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lifes", says one of the characters. The film has been interpreted like a criticism on consumer society because of this struggle for the territory of the shopping mall.

As the philosopher Jaime Cuenca, our guest at the Zombie Seminar in Barakaldo, explained, we can make a very clear comparison between the zombies and the citizen of the consumer society.

We are taken into a constant construction of our identity through the infinite choice consumer society is offering us, where all options are possible except the one of not consuming.

The idea of the shopping mall as a shelter is not new. Anette Baldauf, a sociologist specializing in city development, consumer culture, and feminism explains it at legth in the article 'Shopping Town USA: Victor Gruen, the Cold War, and the Shopping Mall'.

Here is a quote:

Between the mid-1940s and 1957, in the course of the emergence of a radically bi-polar world, the collective morale of the American nation turned from self-affirming celebration of the end of the Second World War into anxious expectation of total war. The common fear of the Third World War was often compared with a ‘low-grade fever that the nation could not shake’. In a context so much saturated by fear, the ‘philosophy of containment’ offered an instrument for empowering control as well as for the continual feeding of this collective fear. The hermetically sealed shopping centre delivered this philosophy with a concrete symbol that combined these two functions: inwardly, in other words to the shoppers, the centre signalled safety, shelter, and retreat. It provided the ‘uprooted’ resident of the rapidly growing suburban landscape with a sense of meaning and an affective anchor. Outwardly, to the rival Soviet Union and to communist sympathisers, the shopping centre signalled the superiority of capitalism; it stood as material proof of the principles of social egalitarianism and for the freedom of choice inherent in consumerism.

Iratxe Jaio en Klaas van Gorkum

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