My interview with Open Book about Shopping for Change


Book cover for the Canadian publication by Between the Lines Books.

This week marks the publication in Canada (very exciting!) of my new book, co-edited with Louis Hyman, Shopping for Change: Consumer Activism and the Possibilities of Purchasing Power. Published by Between the Lines here in Canada, it’s published elsewhere by Cornell University Press, which will have it out in April.

Recently I spoke about the book with Open Book (which celebrates and profiles Ontario’s literary scene, with a special focus on the books and events produced by Ontario’s independent, Canadian-owned publishers) as part of their Lucky Seven interview series. In the interview, I discuss how the Occupy movement inspired the book, about dealing with imposter syndrome, and, of course, the importance of tea in the writing process. The Lucky Seven interview, with Joseph Tohill


Kaepernick Jersey-buyers Draw on another American Political Tradition—Consumer Activism

As many commentators have pointed out, in refusing to stand for the American national anthem and “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” NLF back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick has joined a tradition of black athletes who have used their fame to promote civil rights. But his actions have also provided his fans and supporters with an opportunity to engage in another storied American political tradition—consumer activism.

Consumer activism has deep roots in American history, stretching back to the boycotts of “baubles from Britain” in the lead-up to the American Revolution. Black civil rights activists have long spent (or refused to spend) their dollars in the service of their cause. Consumer activism was central, for example, to many of the key battles of the Civil Rights Era, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the lunch-counter sit-ins. More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted shopping on Black Friday—the busiest shopping day of the year in the US—to draw attention to police killings of African Americans.

Black Lives Matter Black Friday

NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson, MO, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday consumerism in November 2015. (Photo by The All-Nite Images licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The news that Kaepernick’s jersey is now the top seller in the NFL suggests a spontaneous, grassroots move by consumers to use their “purchasing power for justice” (to paraphrase the slogan of the League of Women’s Shoppers, an influential consumer organization of the 1930s and 1940s). The “buycott” of Kaepernick’s jersey has the support of some celebrities like Susan Sarandon (who recently tweeted that she was waiting for hers to arrive) but the spontaneous nature of the protest is striking. Continue reading