Track 1.7: Understanding the Transformative Nature of Heritage Consumption

Heritage has been defined as “a version of the past received through objects and display, representations and engagements, spectacular locations and events, memories and commemorations, and the preparation of places for cultural purposes and consumption (Waterton and Watson 2015, 1). Until recently, consuming (and managing the consumption of) heritage experiences and sites has been the purview of scholars within anthropology, tourism, architecture, and urban planning, with some studies touching on the meaning of transformative heritage experiences (e.g., Efrat and Casimiro 2022; Galway 2016; Veldpaus et al. 2021). 

Consumer researchers also recognize the salience of exploring such issues as how brands with deep and specific heritages shape consumption (Schouten and McAlexander 1995, Otnes and Maclaran 2015); how consumer emotions are orchestrated in heritage sites (Higgins and Hamilton 2019), and how consumers interpret the past by consuming heritage-laden brands (Brunk, Giesler, and Hartman 2018). However, the field lacks a comprehensive conceptual overview of how consuming heritage can be transformative for its stakeholders, in positive and negative, short- and long-term, and other ways. Given the pervasiveness and popularity of heritage consumption, and that many experiences leverage key intersectional dimensions (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, generational issues), this session proposes to draw together scholars interested in consuming heritage broadly construed, as captured by the definition above.

The goals for the session are 1) to develop a conceptual journal article that reviews the current state of heritage consumption in the literature and proposes a research agenda to deepen knowledge of the transformative impact of heritage for both academics and practitioners, and 2) to develop a network of scholars interested in this area, who can collaborate and disseminate their research at conferences and in future publications. We are pleased to report that Tom O’Leary, Public Engagement Director of Historic Royal Palaces, will be a participating practitioner in this track. We are happy to open participation to other relevant external stakeholders, and we will reserve at least one space for a junior scholar (completing the doctorate and having worked in academia for a maximum of three years).  Prior to the session, participants will work to agree upon a working definition of heritage consumption, and refine and prioritize the following research questions to facilitate the goals of this session: 

  • What broad topics should be included within the scholarly terrain of “heritage consumption” (e.g., from the micro, meso, macro, and marketplace levels?)
  • At present, what are the main contributions of scholars within consumer behavior and related disciplines (e.g., anthropology, tourism management) with respect to the transformative nature of heritage consumption? 
  • What are the potential transformative benefits of heritage consumption for stakeholders – consumers, managers of these sites, the communities where they are located, broader institutions (from tourism bureaus to, say, UNESCO)?
  • What potential negative consequences of heritage consumption are salient to these stakeholders?
  • What issues must these stakeholders consider in determining the balance between positive and negative consequences?
  • Given the many contexts that intersect with heritage (from individual touristic sites to resources such as oceans) face global, economic, and geopolitical challenges, what  central questions should research explore, with respect to supporting and promoting sustainable heritage consumption?

For queries related to this track please email: Cele Otnes,

To apply to this track, please email a Research Vision to Cele Otnes,



Brunk, K. H., Giesler, M. and B. J. Hartmann (2018), “Creating a consumable past: how memory making shapes marketization”, Journal of Consumer Research, 44(6), 1325-1342.
Efrat, L. and G. G. Casimiro (2022), “Transformative heritage: Open source, insurgent nationalism, and augmented memories”, Culture Unbound, 14 (2), 133-152.
Galway, N. (2016), “Heritage as a vessel of transformative values in post-conflict states?”, In B. Szmigin (Ed.), Heritage for Future: Heritage in Transformation-Cultural Heritage Protection in XXI Century: Problems, Challenges and Predictions, Lublin: ICOMOS (Poland), 81-92.
Higgins, L., and K. Hamilton (2019), “Therapeutic servicescapes and market-mediated performances of emotional suffering”, Journal of Consumer Research, 45 (6), 1230-1253.
Mirabito, Ann M., et al. (2016), "The stigma turbine: A theoretical framework for conceptualizing and contextualizing marketplace stigma”, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 35 (2): 170-184.
Otnes, C. C. & Maclaran, P. (2015), Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture, Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press.
Schouten, J. W., and J. H. McAlexander (1995), “Subcultures of consumption: An ethnography of the new bikers”, Journal of Consumer Research, 22 (1), 43-61.
Veldpaus, L., Kisić, V., Stegmeijer, E. and J. Janssen (2021), “Towards a more just world: An agenda for transformative heritage planning futures”, in Stegmeijer E. and Veldpaus L. (Eds),  A Research Agenda for Heritage Planning: Perspectives from Europe, Cheltenhan, UK: Edward Elgar Publishers, pp. 201-220.
Waterton, Emma, and Steve Watson (2015), "Heritage as a focus of research: past, present and new directions." The Palgrave handbook of contemporary heritage research. Palgrave Macmillan, London. 

Track Chair Bios

Cele Otnes is Research Professor and Professor Emerita of Business Administration (marketing area) in the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has published on heritage consumption, particularly with regard to the British Royal Family brand, as co-author with Pauline Maclaran of Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.  She co-chaired the Stigma and Consumption Track at TCR Session at Villanova University. This session resulted in the publication of “The Stigma Turbine: A Theoretical Framework for Conceptualizing and Contextualizing Marketplace Stigma,” (Mirabito et al., 2016) in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing. 


Pauline Maclaran is Professor of Marketing at Royal Holloway University, London. As editor of Marketing Theory, she has guided the publication of many articles that have a transformative focus, both within consumer behavior and within the field of marketing. She has explored heritage and consumption in contexts such as Glastonbury, and the British Royal Family brand,  as co-author with Cele Otnes of Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture, particularly to understand the many layers of meaning that underpin such contexts. 


Back to Track 1 Summaries

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.