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Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25s Through description of an economically ificant community-based, consumption performance, the Florida Classic football bowl week-end, the authors discuss performative mechanisms employed to create and sustain a community little discussed in consumer research: an African-American middle class. Types of performances, key symbols, and ificant rituals are described. We show how the game provides a forum for the expression of values critical to community self-definition and representation to the broader society.
A particular coda, involving accusations of racism against a local mall, illustrate one source of tension within this community. This tension is nonetheless constitutive of this performative event. The authors argue that an understanding of performances like the Florida Classic provide insight into the community ties, that are, inturn, essential to understanding the African-American middle class.
The Florida Classic is a thriving celebration that exemplifies the florescence of celebration that is transforming the annual holiday cycle in fin de siFcle America. Cities everywhere host public events that foster the cultural diversity of their populations e. The development of ethnic theme parks, historical ants, arts and historic districts, as well as the florescence of the Classic and other African-American bowl games are part of the broader trend towards the creation of new secular, consumption rituals Abrahams; Kuglemass ; Manning ; Miller ; Moore and Myerhoff For 25 years, spectators have attended the Classic during Thanksgiving week-end in Tampa Florida.
The Marching actually consists of over participants, while the BCC band fields about band members. Very active tailgating and mall crawling precedes the game on the Tampa Stadium grounds and nearby Tampa Bay mall. Recently, the Classic has become nested in an evolving sequence of Classic events held throughout Thanksgiving week see Exhibit 1. The Classic is a consequential consumption event in economic terms, but the question of interest to us is the ificance of Looking to meet someone to go to the florida classic with growth and success for participants, and its relevance to consumer behavior more generally.
The interest and ificance of the Classic derives first and foremost from the fact that it is a distinctively middle class African-American performative event. These relatively affluent African-Americans AAAs receive little attention in marketing scholarship despite their increasing economic and social ificance. To know and understand this group of consumers requires a community orientation. This is because so much of their social and cultural life is conducted through extended, overlapping social networks that create and sustain community life. Thus, the Classic with its communal, participatory, and performative dimensions provides an ideal vehicle for learning more about affluent African-American consumers.
In this exploratory paper, we combine two years of participant observation field notes of Florida Classic events and focus group data collected with three groups of participants students, senior women, young men. In addition, we report some of a mail survey drawn from a list of identifiable alumni of FAMU and BCC, to which over responded, to develop Looking to meet someone to go to the florida classic with interpretatin of this event. Because one of the authors is a cultural insider, with long experience of Classic traditions, our interpretation also strives to combine techniques of thick inscription with those of thick description Arnould and Wallendorf In the remainder of paper, we first provide some background information on affluent African-Americans, that incorporates some of survey data to lay out the research setting.
We then discuss the performance framework in consumer research, explore aspects of the Classic as a show performance, and finally discuss the implications of our interpretation. Some 35 million African American persons reside in the US. But with the exception of some television sitcoms and movies, and the high visibility of a few actors, sports figures, and politicians, the African-American population typically is represented as poor and ghettoized by the popular US media.
According to Claritas, AAA households reside primarily in urban and suburban areas of the south as do the participants in the Classic survey. According to other market research studies, affluent African-Americans tend towards over consumption of some key consumer goods, and in general devote a ificant share of income to consumption activities. The Classic week-end provides a ificant cyclical opportunity to engage in many kinds of consumption. First, many participants travel to attend the game.
Second, as our focus group participants affirmed, the Classic week precipitates anticipatory expenditures of clothing and coiffures for many participants of all ages. In addition to anticipatory expenditures, spending on lodging, and on the many private parties hosted during the week-end and tail-gating at the stadium, participants may attend functions that charge a fee.
Examining the Florida Classic provides evidence to clarify the matter. There are indications that AAAs display characteristics of a distinctive sub-culture. For example, our data reflects the reportedly stronger adherence to family values popularly associated with the traditional white middle class. Affiliation, self-esteem, and demonstrations of personal excellence may be values more important to Affluent African-Americans than white Americans.
Not surprisingly, AAAs exhibit heightened perceptions of racism in society, and this is evident in our data as we show below. African-Americans are more favorably disposed towards advertising and consumption in general than is the population as a whole. Finally, as evidenced by such diverse phenomena as the success of Afrocentric shopping venues like the DeKalb mall in suburban Atlanta, the dramatic upsurge in attendance at HBCUs, and the growth of Kwanzaa, the African-American Christmas celebration, they display increasingly positive attitudes towards consumption of goods, services, and experiences, expressive of the elusive "black experience.
The performance metaphor has generalized in pluri-disciplinary scholarly research to organize, understand, and explain the ificance of a broad range of cultural forms, including consumer behaviors. In fact, Deighton argues that performance is a necessary condition that gives rise to all consumption experience. In other words, consumers behave as if they were audiences responding to or participating in performances with products, services, and experiences.
A consumption performance assumes a plot like form, involving anticipation, tension and resolution; it has a rhetorical purpose, and enlists participants in the action. All performance takes places in space and over time. The boxed Exhibit 1 summarizes the temporal flow of events that surround the Classic as they have evolved over the years. Our attention focuses on the Florida Classic football game, but an initial indication of the temporal complexity of the performances that surround this event is necessary to appreciate the framework for analysis we develop below.
Drawing on a diverse literature, Deighton develops a typology of consumer performances differentiated by the extent to which consumers play a passive or active role in the performance, and whether the performance takes place in a naturalistic, realistic setting, or an artificialfantastic setting see Exhibit 2.
As Exhibit 2 shows we classify the Florida Classic as a hybrid form, combining elements of show, festive, and thrill performances. This is why we term it a ramified cultural performance Kuglemass A show performance has elements of spectacle: spectacular display, separation of audience and performers, and rhetorical amplification of moral values DeBord ; Firat and Venkatesh Further, interest lies not with the outcome, but in the process.
In addition to the Classic bowl game, the step shows staged by fraternities and sororities from various colleges and universities exhibit these characteristics. The Classic includes a of more festival-like performative elements. In festival performances, events unfold in a fairly ritualistic and predictable manner within relatively narrow limits, retaining the artificiality of staging characteristic of show performances. Nevertheless, festival- like events allow for more interchange in the roles of audience and performer, and exhibit multiple, rather than singular foci of action and attention.
Mall-crawling, tail-gating, the Glory Foods party, the black tie gala, and perhaps the gospel concert, are examples. And it should not be forgotten that embedded in the Classic week-end is Thanksgiving Day that is set aside for familiar, festive, family consumption performances Wallendorf and Arnould Some even say that the whole Classic week is like a "reunion.
Given limitations of space, we will now turn to a presentation of data only in terms of the first of the three types of performative genres evident in the Classic: dramatistic show performances, associated with the Classic bowl game.
Deighton defines dramatistic show performances in terms of a of criteria that informants also evoke in their discussion of the Classic. First, the setting is artificial, even fantastical with a narrow focus, and predictable outcomes. As Deighton points out, sports events like the Classic often display some of these traits. The Florida Classic is spectacle-like in its clear framing, exaggerated displays, predictability, and the indifference of participants to the outcome of the game. Examples of exaggerated display are many.
One focus group informant, a teacher, said that local high school students often plan their wardrobes weeks ahead. And one women spoke of having bought clothing that she set aside to wear at the game months ahead of time.
Some wealthy people may buy a box at the Tampa Stadium just for this game, and indeed a lot of socializing, networking, and display behavior takes place in these boxes. People say that hair dressers are booked for weeks ahead of time, and there is no way to get an appointment in the week prior to the Classic.
One of our focus group informants even warned us that she had an appointment after the session, thus hoped it would not run too long. As one student focus group member said, "they come out in their best In a way, the football game is the frame for the half-time spectacle.
This show features lengthy musical performances by the bands that include virtuoso feats of drumming, marching, dancing, and showmanship. Hundreds participate in the synchronized performances that includes troops of musicians, majorettes, and drum majors. People expect the drum majors to split their pants. People anticipate the performances of the majorettes like the BCC Golden Girls, wondering how lascivious they will dare to be.
These performances rivet consumers in the stands, and elicit clapping and singing along with familiar songs. During half-time the concession area, where young people and ordinary attendees parade and network during the game, is deserted. And inthe stands actually emptied out in the closing moments of the football game just as the underdog BCC team was advancing up-field to make a winning touch-down attempt.
In fact the underdog team won. But as people say about the Classic:. I mean, you went to the Classic In other words, the battle of the bands, and the consumption of this spectacle, not the game, is the thing.
An additional twist, like that experienced at gay rights parades Kates and Belk, n. The first time I went I'll never forget it. It was actually raining that night at the game, it was an evening game and it was raining, and. Second, events in dramatistic show performances occur to fulfill social obligations. Human agents are held responsible for the performance, and participants understand that people intentionally contrive effects.
And, the audience is relatively passive. In the following complicated exchange, students express their anxiety about band members' commitment to excellence, critiques, commitment to band traditions, and desires to live up to them:. I: Natasha, you said you were going to be in the half, you were going to be in the But as far as the band No, I'm marching next year Know what I'm saying? It takes a rebuilding year, the freshmen from this year are a lot different than the ones in the past.
They're hard-headed, personally, I'm a freshman and I can tell you they are hard-headed. They don't want to do what they're supposed to do and they don't come to practice, they act like they're upper-classmen already and they're not focus group, students. Also in the case of the Classic, a typically American value, competition, is molded to the special obligations imposed by the Classic on participants.
Both official performers and ordinary participants compete and perform in order to demonstrate their best, not to win out over others:. You can talk to anyone and you've got all the majority of the black members of the Florida Legislature-they come back for the game-and they're very visible walking around. You've got people who are in corporate America where they're walking around having fun. You've got people from all walks of life and everyone is right there.
No one feels that they're better than anyone else. They want to do their best at whatever they're doing, but it doesn't faze you, you know?
It's just everything is competitive but it's not so much, "Oh, I want to do better than you or I want to put you down, but it's I want to do the absolute best that I can. I: So, why is it you want to work so hard to be in this band? This sounds like a lot of work to me. They might go over to the sidelines and pass out for a secondLooking to meet someone to go to the florida classic with
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