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July 1, 2022

The Consuming Mob: Bargain Shopping in the City

Iarocci, Louisa. (2019). The Consuming Mob: Bargain Shopping in the City. Architectural Theory Review, 23(2), 195 – 213.

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This paper examines the representation of the crowd as the consuming mob in the American department store in the early twentieth century. In store promotions and popular accounts, urban retail spaces provide the setting for the materialization of the crowd as the driving engine and mutated body of mass consumption. Store owners and their backers employed the image of shopping hordes on their premises as an advertisement for the success of modern trade. The department store served as a model of a rational utopian order in its operations and spaces. But in popular representations the growing assemblies of bodies and goods often appeared as a potentially unruly force that threatened the constraints of their surroundings. This paper will trace the path of the urban crowd as it flowed from the city streets into the inner recesses of the store, mapping narratives of shopping through the lenses of gender and class.


Crowds; Department Stores; Shopping; City; Consumption