Boston University Professor Marilyn Halter Explores the Marketing of Ethnicity

in Humanities/Social Science, News Releases, University Affairs
October 19th, 2000

Contact: Sarah Godbout, 617-358-1240 | sgodbout@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.) — Marilyn Halter, associate professor of history and research associate at the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture at Boston University, has delved deeply into one of the most fascinating and rapidly changing social topics in America today.

In her book, Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity (Schocken Books) Halter studies the cultural trend in American society of connecting with our ethnic heritage. Ethnicity is often used as a way of defining one’s self. It sets individuals apart, and incorporates customs, dress, language and eating habits into one’s way of life. So, how do ethnic groups do this? By shopping — buying products to bond us to our ethnicity or trying those products of another.

Those trying to reach this complex, varied new world of consumers are aware of the opportunity and the challenges ahead. Marketers are taking advantage of the situation by appealing to the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the population. Businesses all over the country and in every field are focused on trying to fulfill the population’s new needs and desires. We see it everywhere: companies launching new brands in supermarkets, greeting cards, vacation itineraries, music groups – a major shift toward concentration on specific ethnic groups. However, these campaigns are not easy, they must avoid stereotypes and still hit the correct market in order to be successful.

Halter addresses this interaction between commerce and culture in the marketplace with insight and ample evidence. Shopping for Identity illuminates an important aspect of our contemporary way of life, while validating the yearning we all feel to connect with our roots.

Boston University is the third-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students in its 15 schools and colleges. The University offers an exceptional grounding in the liberal arts, a broad range of programs in the arts, sciences, engineering, and professional areas, and state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research.

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