|dc.description||The aim of this BA thesis was to study the perception of body and its relation to
consumer culture among young urban women in Estonia. Although the thesis relates to
many other works that map different dimensions of consumer culture in Estonia –
especially Margit Keller’s PhD thesis and Katrin Rahu’s MA thesis - it is the first to
connect the subjects of body and consumer culture.
The theoretical part gives an overview of the naturalistic and constructivist approaches to
the body in current social theory. Consumer culture as a concept is defined and the
relations between body and consumer culture are considered. The works of Anthony
Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean Baudrillard, Mike Featherstone, Zygmunt Bauman, Chris
Shilling and Michel Foucault form a significant part of the theoretical basis for the study,
as does the research carried out at Tartu University.
To tackle the research problem, qualitative approach of data collection and analysis was
used. Ten semi-structured in-depth interviews with 18-29 year old women living in
Tallinn and Tartu formed a basis for empirical analysis. Qualitative content analysis
method, drawing mainly on Miles and Huberman, was applied to interpret the interviews.
The study aimed to find answers to the following research questions: 1) What are the
body-related practices, consumed goods and services and applied strategies of young
urban women?; 2) What are the body-related values of young urban women?; 3) Which
beliefs and conceptions manifest themselves through what and how young urban women
say about their bodies?; 4) Based on the previous, what can be said about the relation of
young urban women, their bodies and consumer culture?
On the basis of the analysis it can be concluded that body maintenance forms an
important part of the lives of young urban women and the scope of body-related practices
is very wide. Those practices usually presuppose consumption and may be organized into purposeful and reflexive strategies. Certain care of one’s body is considered elementary;
the content of this minimal norm is among other things dependent on the space, options,
goals and roles of the person.
“Beauty”, “youth” and “health” are important body-related values for the young urban
women, but such notions like “harmony”, “balance” and “wholeness” are also given
remarkable consideration. In sum, their views are characterized by certain ambiguity
concerning which values are considered terminal and which are instrumental.
The belief that one’s body can be changed and shaped and that it is one’s responsibility to
do so, is widespread among young urban women. The body is often seen as capital that
gives access to other types of capital. But the body can also be interpreted as something
“given“ or “natural”, something that one must live with in peace and harmony.
This BA thesis describes two ways of giving meaning to the body that exist among the
interviewees: “body as a project“ and “natural body“. Those constructions are ideal types
that in real life intertwine and form different combinations. Certainly these two types do
not include all aspects of how young urban women perceive the body, but represent two
clearest patterns of thought that emerged during this study.
Both aforementioned ways of constructing the body have its own relation to
consumption, based on their inner logic. Neither of them presumes nor excludes
consumption, but both determine the reasoning behind consuming or not consuming.
Though consumption and thinking about the body cannot be separated, protest against
consumption and consumer culture exists.
In conclusion it can be said that consumer culture theory can be fruitfully used to study
the body and its meaning in contemporary Estonia. But to get an adequate picture of the
research subject, other social groups ought to be studied and different theoretical
approaches should be used.||