Between two worlds: an ethnographic study of gay consumer culture in Rio de Janeiro
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It is not easy to study socially marginalized groups such as gays, ethnic minorities, and others. This is, however, an extremely relevant topic in the consumer behavior area since the status of members of a modern consumer society is largely denied to stigmatized social groups (Barbosa, 2006). The objective of this work is to shed light on how gay men in Rio de Janeiro use the discourse associated with their possessions to build and maintain the symbolic and hierarchical boundaries between the gay and heterosexual worlds, as well as to investigate the role consumption plays in this boundary setting. An ethnographic observation of a group of gay men in Rio de Janeiro was conducted, along with 20 semi-structured interviews with openly gay men between 2005 and 2008. The results suggest that: (a) the world culturally built by gays seems to be divided into a gay world and a heterosexual world, where the division between these two worlds not only happens in their minds, but also in their possessions and purchasing decisions; (b) the meaning of gay mens' places of consumption range from profane to sacred along their lives; and (c) in the gay world, the body is seen both as a cultural construction and as an asset.