Consumer identity
: The case of home confined consumers

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis focuses on the lived consumption expenences that home confined consumers employ to retain an identity in absence of direct marketplace interaction. Home confined consumers account for a significant percentage of the population that are termed disabled. This group of consumers are relatively fast growing and the diversity of disability is one that is expanding in keeping with such growth. Disability itself has not featured highly on the marketing and consumer behaviour research agenda, the case of home confinement has not been addressed. This research aims to contribute to understanding and personal knowing about this population 'in extremis' .

The research adopted an interpretivist approach and drew on a radical constructivist epistemology to capture the lived experience and personal knowing of home confinement. This methodology has not been employed within the consumer research discipline. Radical constructivism acknowledges a more personal way of knowing that is reflective of subjectively constructed consumption experiences and an internal reality that may not match an external reality. Three individual cases of home confinement were explored over a two-year period by means of ongoing 'conversational' style interviews.

This thesis argues that home confined consumers are actively involved in the identity construction process. The findings illustrate the diversity of the home confined experience, and the overriding need to establish an identity that is both in keeping with the personal reality of the lived experience, but, one that will equally establish an identity as stemming from an abelist perspective. The study accommodates the Consumer Response Model introduced recently into disability studies, which aims to capture the lived experience and is in keeping with the agenda of Consumer Culture Theory. This study also acknowledges the implications of the Transformatory Consumer Research agenda in relation to consumer wellbeing.

Periods of sustained, and or, irreversible liminality and uncertainty can be instrumental to the erosion of an identity life cycle. The creative and transformative consumption experiences of the home confined consumers in this study provide a different understanding of consumption behaviour and identity. The concept of a marketplace takes new forms (internal marketplace) when considered from another positioning and a personal reality is the major determinant, not the social reality, for constructive consumption behaviour. Far from being the powerless, weak, and feeble consumers generally depicted in literature, the home confined consumers in this study overcome many barriers to consumption to remain active, powerful, independent agents of change, 'within' an abelist society. In conclusion, the study highlights survival consumption behaviour, in both physical and emotional terms, as the ability to capture not only abelism but also a non-institutionalized freedom.
Date of AwardJul 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorMiriam Catterall (Supervisor)

Cite this