The 'skin' of commerce: Packaging, consumption and the public's health

  • Bell, Kirsten (PI)

Project Details


Visual cues like graphic warning labels and generic packaging are increasingly seen as important weapons against unhealthy forms of consumption – especially in the areas of tobacco control, and, increasingly, alcohol reduction and obesity prevention. However, public health interventions tend to ignore the physical qualities of packaging in favour of its visual attributes as a marketing tool, which may limit the effectiveness of such legislation based on misplaced assumptions about how people engage with it. A thriving array of studies in the social sciences on the material politics of packaging therefore offer new analytic directions for conceptualising its relationship with the everyday activities of eating, drinking and smoking by drawing attention to its powerful material role in shaping the circulation of goods and the meanings they hold. Funded by a funded by a 2019 Wellcome Trust Small Grant in Humanities and Social Science, this project has three objectives: 1) to map how packaging has been conceptualised within the public health and social science literature; 2) to develop new methodological approaches and original empirical data on the relationship between drinking patterns and the containerisation of alcohol; and 3) to assemble a network of scholars interested in developing new approaches to studies of packaging and public health.
Effective start/end date30/09/1931/12/21