Brand Clans: Consumption and Rituals Among Low-income Young People in the City of Porto Alegre

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Abstract:

This article aims to analyze the Brazilian phenomenon of ‘brand clans’ or ‘brand communities’, which means a group of young people who spend all their money buying branded clothes. The research is based on an ethnography carried out about the youngsters, mostly male, from Morro da Cruz – the largest lower class community in Porto Alegre, Brazil. On the one hand, we discuss the tension between poverty and brand consumption and on the other hand, we aim to make an inventory of subjectivities, emotions, logic and meaning of these young people coming from lower class who make great sacrifices in order to become ‘fashionable’ and thus feel socially included. The article is divided into five sections. In the first three, we discuss more theoretical topics, such as consumption, class, youth, totems and rituals. In the last two, we enter more thoroughly in the empirical universe, showing the results obtained through an ethnographic study. We argue that brands play a vital role in the life of the informants. Brands are not only a source of prestige, but also of vitality, power, and citizenship.

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