Consumption Ethics: Interdisciplinary Meanings and Intersections

The final seminar of the ESRC Ethics in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives series, took place on 14 September 2017 at Birkbeck, University of London, and focussed on Consumption Ethics: Interdisciplinary Meanings and Intersections. Guest speakers included Daniel Miller, Professor of Anthropology at UCL; and Jonathon Porritt, Environmentalist and Writer.

Guests were welcomed to the event by seminar organisers and listened to insightful presentations from Jonathon on 'Time to Expose the Evil of Consumerism' and from Daniel on 'A view from context'. Following the presentations, guests took part in a panel discussion with:

We are witnessing a continued growth of the ethical consumerism movement, alongside a significant shift in the breadth and scope of consumers’ ethical concerns. Far from a homogenous collective, however, what is ‘ethical’ will encapsulate different expressions, concerns and issues across individuals, groups and socio-spatial contexts. As we have seen throughout our seminar series, the multi-faceted ethical consumer is increasingly attracting academic interest across disciplinary fields, as well as drawing the attention of activist organisations, government bodies, journalists, media, celebrities, primary industry, manufacturing sectors, and retailers. The purpose of our series is to explore differing academic disciplinary lenses which can tend to be contained in separate streams of research literature that are developing in parallel and in relative isolation. Developing separate bodies of knowledge within bounded disciplinary silos has resulted in a multiplicity of terminology and varied tacit meanings of consumption ethics. In the final of our ESRC seminars we seeked to advance consumer ethics scholarship through the development of an interdisciplinary, and indeed, transdisciplinary theoretical framework that encapsulates the complexity and contextual nature of consumption ethics. 

Guest speaker interviews and presentations

Professor Daniel Miller

Seminar 11Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at University College London.  He has written/edited 37 books, including Social Media in an English Village, How the World Changed Social Media, Consumption and its Consequences, Stuff, and Blue Jeans. Currently he directs a European Research Council project Why We Post investigating the use and consequences of social media. The project launched on 29th February 2016. It includes eleven free books to be published by UCL press. A free UCL university course on FutureLearn and the Why We Post website with over 100 films. The course and website will be in eight languages. The project is based on a team of 9 anthropologists who each conducted 15 months ethnographic research - see our blog. His own study was in a village north of London. He has also recently been working on the potential of new media for the Hospice movement and worked as a research assistant on Susie Kilshaw's study of mothers and miscarriage in Qatar. He is also an editor of the Material World Blog.

An interview with Daniel on Consumption Ethics

Consumption Ethics with Daniel Miller 

Presentation on A view from context

A view from context


Jonathon Porritt

Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future. Ethics in Consumption seminar 11Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, is an eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development.

Established in 1996, Forum for the Future is now the UK’s leading sustainable development charity. The Forum has a growing presence in the United States, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. In addition, he is President of The Conservation Volunteers, a Non-Executive Director of Willmott Dixon Holdings, a Trustee of Ashden, and a Director of Collectively (an online platform celebrating sustainable innovation). He was formerly Director of Friends of the Earth, co-chair of the Green Party and, as Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission until 2009, he spent nine years providing high-level advice to Government Ministers. Jonathon was installed as the Chancellor of Keele University in February 2012. He is also Visiting Professor at Loughborough University and UCL. Recent books are ‘Capitalism As If The World Matters’ (2007) and ‘The World We Made’ (2013) - which seeks to inspire people about the prospects of a sustainable world in 2050. Jonathon received a CBE in January 2000 for services to environmental protection.

An interview with Jonathon on Consumption Ethics

Consumption Ethics with Jonathon Porritt

Presentation on Time to Expose the Evil of Consumerism

Time to Expose the Evil of Consumerism: Jonathon Porritt