Consuming America


Consuming America offers a data-driven, longitudinal analysis of the historical dynamics that have underpinned a long-term, layered cultural-historical process: the emergence of the United States as a dominant reference culture in Dutch public discourse on consumer goods between 1890 and 1990. By iteratively switching between distant and close reading of digitized text, this study has established that newspaper discourse on consumer goods, in particular Coca-Cola and cigarettes, offers instrumental insights into the ways in which Dutch consumers and producers depicted and perceived the United States and American consumer culture. This study concludes that despite periods of flagrant anti-Americanism in the Netherlands, for Dutch people the United States functioned as a persistent beacon of consumerism, modernization, and globalization throughout the twentieth century. Moreover, this study shows that computational techniques are an addition to the more traditional, hermeneutical methods of the cultural historian. Techniques such as full-text searching, topic modeling, co-occurrence networks, and visualizations allow for a systematic exploration and analysis of big data repositories that contain tens of millions of digitized sources.

Ph.D. Thesis