The awards committee of the ASA Section on Consumers and Consumption is extremely pleased to grant this year’s Graduate Student Paper Award to Janet A. Lorenzen of Rutgers University. Lorenzen’s paper, titled “Challenges to Reducing Consumption: Social Connections and the Problem of Gift Giving,” is an examination of the challenges that green consumers face in reducing their consumption levels. Janet convincingly shows that existing theories of consumption cannot fully account for the difficulty of consuming less if they only consider the desire to indulge, social status competition, or the stickiness of identity. She argues that for environmentally-conscious green consumers it is gift giving, and the importance of consumption to the maintenance of social ties, that represents the biggest challenges to changing consumer practices. Based on empirical research among three groups of consumers—voluntary simplifiers, religious environmentalists, and green homeowners—Janet identifies diverse strategies these groups use to reconcile the social demands of gifting with their own project of reducing consumption. In this way, her study integrates insights from both environmental and consumption scholarship, and brings more closely together the study of social networks and consumption practices. Janet’s paper is a fine demonstration of how, even for committed green consumers, reducing consumption is a never-ending process in which the centrality of consumption to social relationships must be negotiated. Congratulations Janet!
Janet recently completed her doctorate at Rutgers University and, in August, will begin her new position as Assistant Professor at Willamette University in the Department of Sociology. Her work on reducing consumption explains the gradual process of transitioning to a green lifestyle, the way “green” technology is integrated into everyday life, the subtle strategies used to spread lifestyle changes through social networks, and the ways in which lifestyle change supports collective action. Her research was funded by a dissertation research grant from the Rutgers Initiative for Climate and Society and a dissertation writing fellowship from the American Association of University Women. She plans to continue to work at the intersections of environmentalism and consumerism, with a focus on the social mechanisms and processes which underlie causal pathways in macro-level change. Her work appears in Sociological Forum, Environmental Politics, Human Ecology Review, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, and Sociology Compass (forthcoming).
The awards committee, including Chair Amy Hanser, University of British Columbia; John Lang, Occidental College; and Zsuzsanna Vargha, University of Leicester, thanks all who submitted great entries and made the decision wonderfully difficult.