The Emergence of Hyper-Consumerism in UAE Society: A Socio-Cultural Perspective

In: Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
Aqil Kazim Chair, Department of Sociology United Arab Emirates University UAE

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This study examines how consumers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are actively employing consumer goods and services to express and forge their own unique socio-cultural identities. It seeks to address such significant issues by exploring the ways through which diverse consumers construct and present their socio-economic status. The study demonstrates how consumer practices, especially those related to luxurious commodities and affluence, function as producers of socio-cultural discourses. Methodologically, this study relies on fieldwork research that was conducted by the researcher over a period of several years (2011-2018) in the different emirates of the UAE. Qualitative methods were employed in particular. Different consumption sites—mainly mega shopping malls—were visited regularly, and various consumers belonging to different socio-economic segments of the society were interviewed. Both structured and unstructured types of interviews were conducted to collect ethnographic data. The study results show the transformation of UAE society consumption patterns from traditional consumption to hyper-consumption. During the 1960s, the UAE shifted overall into a consumer society. In fact, the results show the expansion both of the hyper-consumer, mega malls, the traditional souqs, and online internet shopping within this new hyper-consumer culture. The study also shows how the lifestyle in UAE has changed in the last few decades, as people’s shopping behaviors have shifted from the traditional marketplace to include the newer mega shopping malls and brand stores. In addition, the study shows how consumers construct and present their socio-economic status according to their class, gender, and ethnicity through their own shopping experiences.

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