"Buying and Becoming American: Made in America, Labeling, and Ethical Consumerism,” queries whether 20th and 21st century ethical consumerism practices that focus on “buying for those like me” is necessarily grounded in social justice concerns. I analyze “Made in America” labels and “Buy American” campaigns using feminist and queer theories, arguing that calls by American politicians for citizens to shop for the good of the nation are taken up in complex ways by varying groups, both those with socially progressive aims and groups with socially conservative goals. Building from Nakassis’s concept of “brand surfeits” to consider the “excesses” of ethical consumer brands, and from Sarah Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life to understand ethical consumer labels as institutional structures that act as walls and diversity markers, I theorize that contemporary ethical consumerism is a lens through which we can understand the tensions between an “America” conceived as a contained patriotic unit and an “America” whose physical, political, and affective boundaries are more porous.
Dr. Evangeline (Vange) Heiliger is a Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor of Public Discourse in the Disciplines in the American Studies Program at Smith College. Dr. Heiliger is a feminist and queer epistemologist and methodologist driven by anti-racist, class-conscious,critical disability, and environmental-justice informed questions about what marginalized people do to survive and thrive. Dr. Heiliger is an expert on transnational green, queer, and alternative economies that originate in the Americas and circulate locally and globally, with particular interest in coffee, organics, fair trade, feminist science, cancer, and tiny houses. She is currently at work on Who’s Buying It? Queering American Ethical Consumerism, under contract with the University of Washington Press."