Partly primitive: Discursive constructions of the domestic surfer

Canniford R., Karababa E.

Consumption Markets and Culture, vol.16, pp.119-144, 2013 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 16
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/10253866.2012.662818
  • Journal Name: Consumption Markets and Culture
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.119-144
  • Keywords: primitive, consumption, colonial, discourse, history, other, surfing, HISTORICAL METHOD, CONSUMPTION, CULTURE, MARKET, IDEOLOGY, MYTH


Various studies highlight the importance of discourses in consumer culture, yet fewer explore the historical development of these phenomena. This paper examines a long-view of the meanings and uses of primitive discourse in consumer culture. An investigation of the changing representation of indigenous Hawaiian surfing within Euro-American culture between the late-eighteenth and mid-twentieth century illustrates the ambiguous and malleable articulations of marketplace dis- courses. We find that over the course of this period, primitive discourses are expressed differently by changing figurations of social actors in manners that serve colonial, celebratory, contemplative and countercultural intentions. Finally, we find that the construction of surfing as a partly primitive marketplace culture combines these discourses to offer consumers a distinct and domesticated theatre of liberatory othering. Illustrating the changing possibilities and potentials for otherness in consumer culture, this paper reaffirms that contemporary marketplace cultures have complex historical roots. These legacies justify extended contextual investigations. Implications concerning representation and the politics of market- place primitivism are discussed.