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The role of mundane materiality in family bonding, happiness, and wellbeing (REF: SF18/BAM/EDIRISINGHA)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

This research project proposes to explore little things families do in their ordinary lives. The call is to refocus our attention to how families decide what to watch on TV and how to share their living room space, how they decide meal times and what they eat, and how fathers attend children’s homework in the evening and how mother’s sing poems for their daughters… This is mundanity of our family lives. This research project seeks to re-enchant ordinary lives and shift the focus from consumerist pursuits that drive “happiness is next purchase away” consumption discourse. The principal supervisor’s lifelong research pursuit is to argue that the happiness and stability in family are not “next big purchase”, but it is about little ways in which we dream and plan in our families before the purchase and how we actually put those to use within our taken-for-granted everyday mundanity. In so doing, this project aims to understand how domestic mundanity and mundane consumption that it involves lead to construction and sustenance of a stable and fluid family identity. It explores how this leads to family bonding, happiness and wellbeing of its members. Theoretically, the research project aims to understand mundane domestic materiality and its implications to family relationships, happiness, and wellbeing.

What happens behind closed doors in our families is less explored in consumer and social research. Partly this is due to shifting dynamics within postmodern families as well as methodological issues involving trust and confidence in the researcher participant relationship. Regardless, family and household remain an important and intimate, yet micro-level economy that shed light into shaping dynamics of more macro-level social dynamics. Thus, there is an increasing call within consumer and social research for researchers to understand and conceptualise family consumption and its various social and economic implications.

Domestic materiality refers to intersubjectivities between family members, their possessions and their contextual and situational environments. In so doing enables understanding how mundane consumption can become an essential and useful resource to foster family relationships and bonds. As theorised in emerging anthropological literature, understanding consumption requires a materiality focus to flesh out the postmodern nuances that underpin consumption. Our families provide a vivid context to explore materiality as everyday family lives are deeply embedded in domestic materiality. In response, consumer research is pregnant with studies fascinated with hedonic consumption pursuits, thus, conceptualise rather symbolic dimensions of domestic materiality and consumption. However, there is less we know about mundane and ordinary consumption that accounts for majority of everyday family lives. It is within the mundanity of family that family relationships between its members become stronger and more dependable. Research argues that domestic materiality is essential to bonding among family members and leads to reduction of tensions and ambiguity in family relationships. However, studies have not fully explored the ways in which mundane family engagements such as involving domestic materiality contributes longitudinal stability of family relationships.

Implications of this research traverse beyond consumption and marketing relevance. As much as understanding ways in which mundane materiality contributes to formation and negotiation of family identity, it also has wider social implications. For example, stronger bonds, increased trust, and less tensions in family relationships that occur in consequence to domestic mundane materiality have implications to understanding and responding to micro as well as macro level social discourses such as domestic violence, drug abuse, and teenage anti-social behaviour. There is research linking loosening family relationships and bonding to such socially undesirable behaviours. More emphasis on how to develop and preserve family bonds, therefore, is important.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF18/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include fees.


Publications Exploring Family:
Edirisingha, P., Ferguson, S., and Aitken, R. (2016) “From “Me” to “We”: Negotiating New Family Identity through Meal Consumption in Asian Cultures”, Qualitative Market Research an International Journal, Forthcoming.
Edirisingha, P. A., Aitken, R., and Ferguson, S. (In Press). “Bridging family boundaries: How Asian families mediate the influence of Westernisation”, Consumption, Markets and Culture.

Publications in Progress:
Edirisingha, P. A., Aitken, R., and Ferguson, S. (Proposed Submission: February 2018). “Setting up home: Domestic materiality and new family identity formation”, Journal of Consumer Research.

Publications in Ethnographic Research:
Edirisingha, P. A., Ferguson, S., and Aitken, R. (2015). “From ‘me’ to ‘we’: Negotiating new family identity through meal consumption in Asian cultures”, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 18 (4), 477-496.
Edirisingha, P. A., Aitken, R., and Ferguson, S. (2015). “Adapting Ethnography: An example of emerging relationships, building trust, and exploring complex consumer landscapes”, Research in Consumer Behaviour (Ed. Consumer Culture Theory), 191-215.

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