Event Title

The Political Economy of Hype: Consumer Demand, Resource Management, and Labor within New York City’s Youth Sneaker Culture

Presenter Information

Arianna Gil, Oberlin College

Location

Science Center A155

Start Date

9-26-2014 3:30 PM

End Date

9-26-2014 5:00 PM

Abstract

My research attempts to uncover the multiple forces that drive youth sneaker culture in New York City. The goal is to bring attention to the ways in which Nike, among other streetwear corporations, and urban youth simultaneously work to overcome the contradictions of capitalism. With few resources, urban youth of color—who comprise the base of sneaker traders—access money and clothes through their entrepreneurial work in the underground sneaker economy. Though not directly active in promoting underground trading, Nike, through the steady release of “limited” sneakers, has secured steady demand for their products amongst a demographic with otherwise limited expendable resources. By using a nuanced analysis that considers economic survival as well as emotional and cultural-consumer desire as elements that work to grow sneaker hegemony, one is able to see sneaker trading within the larger picture of twenty-first-century capitalism. Through field research, interviews with traders, and analysis of secondary sources, the complex phenomenon of sneaker trading can be explained as yet another way that multinational corporations work to extract labor, resources, and capital from the urban working class.

Notes

Session II, Panel 4 - Creative Consumption: Enacting Alternative Economies

Award

Oberlin College Research Fellow (OCRF)

Project Mentor(s)

Chris Howell, Politics

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Sep 26th, 3:30 PM Sep 26th, 5:00 PM

The Political Economy of Hype: Consumer Demand, Resource Management, and Labor within New York City’s Youth Sneaker Culture

Science Center A155

My research attempts to uncover the multiple forces that drive youth sneaker culture in New York City. The goal is to bring attention to the ways in which Nike, among other streetwear corporations, and urban youth simultaneously work to overcome the contradictions of capitalism. With few resources, urban youth of color—who comprise the base of sneaker traders—access money and clothes through their entrepreneurial work in the underground sneaker economy. Though not directly active in promoting underground trading, Nike, through the steady release of “limited” sneakers, has secured steady demand for their products amongst a demographic with otherwise limited expendable resources. By using a nuanced analysis that considers economic survival as well as emotional and cultural-consumer desire as elements that work to grow sneaker hegemony, one is able to see sneaker trading within the larger picture of twenty-first-century capitalism. Through field research, interviews with traders, and analysis of secondary sources, the complex phenomenon of sneaker trading can be explained as yet another way that multinational corporations work to extract labor, resources, and capital from the urban working class.