The sci-commodity sensibilities of performative Covid-19 face masking.

Publication date: Aug 01, 2023

This article explores how extravagantly visible mask-wearing relates with consumer culture. Methodologically, three purposively chosen case studies of spectacular or performative mask-wearing are used to show what the face mask can teach us about consumer culture in a pandemic. First, a Daily Mail (UK) article in which an ‘elderly shopper’ is shamed for wearing a sanitary towel as a face mask is used to explore the politics of disposable commodities. Second, the multiplying portraits of people wearing masks archived under Instagram’s #MaskSelfie hashtag allows an examination of how consumer-citizenship is performed. Third, the presence of extremely expensive luxury designer masks, as evidenced by Rich Mnisi’s Swarovski-encrusted offering, is a base for considering how virtue signalling has become a platform for luxury branding. Building on these three examples, the argument is made that waste, selfies and luxury are modalities for a pandemic commodity politics that is layered over and into the scientific citizenship signalled by the wearing of face masks. Together these create what I call a ‘sci-commodity’ sensibility, in which the face mask as a technology has become integrated with the modalities of consumption. This has resonance with ongoing debates about the object, subject and brand in consumer culture.

Concepts Keywords
Instagram Commodity
Pandemic face mask
Rich luxury
Shopper other-media
Teach selfies


Type Source Name
disease MESH Covid-19
disease IDO object

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