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The Consumer Culture in Minnesota
Jackson (2004) considers globalization as a site of struggle as opposed to the common definition of the term as an ongoing issue. In his work, Jackson states that producers continue to customize the goods they sell in an attempt to suit the demands of the targeted market. In his assertion, Jackson employs an example of South Africa and China. This aspect of consumer adaptation to globalization is evident in MOA (Mall of America). Different sellers create various stores that specialize in the sale of the products that they believe will suit the consumers. The entrepreneurs, therefore, sell various fashion products to attract more clients that are interested in unique products. Consumers become the controllers of the things that are sold.
MOA offers diverse stores that tend to deal with typical Minnesota products. During my visit to the mall, for example, I found a store named Minnesota-Ah!, which dealt with country-like products. The store owners sold gifts and souvenirs that were associated with the state of Minnesota. The Western Store, in turn, dealt with western-style goods. Mostly, this store offered country clothes. To enhance the western mood, the salespersons wore old western uniforms and the store was filled with country music. The Love from Minnesota store dealt with the family products that reflected the unique Minnesotan culture. They sold different homemade products, such as flavored butter, jams, soups, mixes, amongst other products. This store promoted the Minnesotan family experiences and values.
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In his book, Massey (1994) raises some important questions concerning the issue. One of the questions asks, How, in the face of all this movement and intermixing, can we retain any sense of a local place and its particularity? An (idealized) notion of an era when places were (supposedly) inhabited by coherent and homogeneous communities is set against the current fragmentation and disruption (Massey, 1994). The above examples showing the types of stores in MOA partly answer this question. Massey's main concern addresses the sense of place and origin from a global perspective. Globalization does not necessarily translate to selling and buying of products that are accepted globally; it rather encourages manufacturers to add goods that can suit the global market into the already localized product sets. Consequently, the localized producers should not do away with the localized products or alter them completely to suit the global market.
MOA has some examples of this concept. Even though it has stores that deal exclusively with Minnesota products, it also offers goods from other cultures and markets. For example, the Relaxing Massage is an Asian store. Asians are highly commended when it comes to doing massages. This store not only reflects the level, at which globalization has penetrated every area of the consumer's lives but also shows that Minnesota is a cosmopolitan area. The state accommodates other traditions and makes them a part of the single culture. Today, places are usually not inhabited by coherent and homogeneous communities as they used to be some time ago. However, the sense of belonging has not been eliminated from the market. It is not all about globalization and modifying everything to suit the global market. Producers and manufacturers reserve space for homogenization as is evident in this mall. There is that sense of belonging and identification that the producers and consumers seem to uphold.
Goss (1999) seems to argue that MOA is a stereotypical mall. He feels that this mall is a counter-site of what used to be the real representation of a culture that was collaborated with the consumer. Goss asserts that the mall does not truly distinguish and reflects the culture of the unique Minnesotans. The products in the mall are rather a vague representation of the culture, with political influence, fights of economic stability, and the sense of an all accommodative culture. From a given perspective, Goss's concern is credible.
Brad Kleinerman was once questioned by the security guards at MOA because he had suspiciously looked at them. The guards went ahead and filed a report because they thought he posed a threat to the people. Nevertheless, Kleinerman just wanted to buy a watch for his son at the mall. Najam Qureshi, a store owner that dealt with native Pakistan products, was once asked by an FBI agent at his own home whether he knew anyone who endangered the safety of the United States. This event was a result of an earlier incident when Qureshi's father had forgotten his cell phone on a food court table (Schulz, & Becker, 2011). The above two incidences depict controversial episodes that relate to the beliefs of contemporary American society, let alone the Minnesotans. Whereas the state advocates homogeneity, as well as coherence with other cultures, the efforts to uphold the same, convey the contrary. Ironically, the American of American origin is expected to sell Pakistan products. Similarly, the people who buy such products should be only from the region, in which the products originate. It would be difficult to attract these customers if they are considered suspicious every time they enter the mall or engage in any activity inside the building. Understandably, Americans have become sensitive to some races and issues from particular regions after the attacks that the nation has gone through recently. However, it should not be an excuse for some uncouth acts taking place in malls and other public places. Goss (1999) asserts that such incidences bring the confusion that defines malls as a marketplace, as well as a political arena. Therefore, the mall is a counter-site of what was originally in the minds of those, who had created it.
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To give more meaning to Goss's work, Mitchell (2007) elaborates on the definition given by the people in terms of democracy and publicity. Mitchell questions the end of the public space (Mitchell, 2007). In Qureshi's example, his family was visited by the FBI agent after the phone incident only because they were Pakistani. Mitchell finds that everything has acquired certain characteristics of its origin thus establishing confusion on whether and where the line between the public, democracy, and privacy is.
In the mall, there was a store that had numerous freestanding booths and stands. These stands and booths mainly dealt with clothing. The idea was to do away with the homogeneity identified earlier. Unlike the past cultures, in which food stores were more popular than the clothing stores, the current market shows the other trend. Both clothing and food stores are at the same level today. Consumers tend to buy foods as often as they buy clothes.
MOA is trying to reach the homogeneity that was once established in local areas of sale. However, globalization has been altering this trend gradually. The stall selling western clothes has some clothes that have been given a twist of the American culture to suit the demands of the young people. It is necessary to understand that markets have not been fully globalized yet, as Jackson (1994) tends to assert. However, they are on the verge of turning in that way. Producers are trying to accommodate the global demands more eagerly than ever before. They seem to accept the pressuring need for change.