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Understanding Difficult Consumer Transitions: The In/Dividual Consumer In Permanent Liminality

Journal of Consumer Research

Samuelson Appau, Julie L. Ozanne, Jill G. Klein


Some life transitions are difficult and prolonged, such as becoming an independent adult, forming a family, or adopting healthy consumption habits. Permanent liminality describes transitions that can span years and even a lifetime with no anticipated end. To understand how consumers are caught in permanent liminality, we examine how Pentecostal converts consume religious services in their difficult transition from the secular “world” to Pentecostalism. We draw on the concept of individual personhood to explain how the Pentecostal individual is coconstituted in an endless movement between the undesired “worldly” individual and the contiguous incorporation into the desired Pentecostal individual and structure. Pentecostals’ permanent liminality thus involves ongoing cycles of separation and incorporation within zones of indeterminacy, in which neither separation nor incorporation is ever completed. This theoretical framework explains the unfinished transition of Pentecostal converts as contested dividuals. We extend this theoretical explanation for future research on liquid modernity and consumers caught in permanent liminality.

Permanent Liminality, In/Dividual Consumer, Dividuality, Transitions, Religion, Pentecostalism


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