Example: Condiments.

Surviving the
Supermarket Shuffle
What and How, Not Why
Focus on what a set of items means and how it
Example: Condiments.
In the HEB, the set of condiments centers around
ketchup and mustard (central category members)
with a second tier of items focused around relish
(peripheral members) and barbecue sauce.
Mayonnaise is kind of between the condiments and
salad dressings.
What and How, Not Why
Example: Condiments.
This category structure suggests that the idea of
condiments in the HEB is associated with the
hamburger and the hot dog.
This observation could lead to a thesis that
examines the role of “fast food” in the context of
national identity, and how that role might or might
not persist across contexts of class and culture.
What and How, Not Why
Example: Condiments.
We don’t care so much about:
• How easy it seems to find the ketchup.
• If shelf space for the condiments is large
because condiments are profitable for the
• If the market made its decisions because the
people in there seem like they would eat a lot
of hamburgers and hot dogs.
What and How, Not Why
Example: Condiments.
We might want to say something about the difference
between mustard and ketchup at the fancy market; e.g.,
mustard IS fancy while ketchup is kind of for kids. How
can we say that?
• We can look at the range of varieties of mustard, their
prices, their origins, etc. compared to ketchup.
• We can look at the different shapes of the containers.
We are essentially saying that the characteristics of
interest for mustard are different than for ketchup. We can
say that these different characteristics imply a different
audience (adults vs. kids).
What and How, Not Why
Example: Condiments.
But we aren’t interested in saying things like:
• The market has really responded to the
demographics of the neighborhood in
prioritizing the ketchup.
• The placement of the ketchup is successful
because it encourages parents to buy it for their
What and How, Not Why
Example: Condiments.
We aren’t interested in supermarkets as such! We
aren’t in marketing class. We don’t care about
“best” or “good” ways of arranging items. We just
want to know what the items say and how they say
Similarly, your observations should be tied into a
deeper analysis of category structure, meaning, and
(conceptual) motivation. Don’t get distracted by
irrelevant details.
Readings Help With What and How
Example: Condiments.
Lakoff is good for determining category structure and
conceptual motivations that underly that structure.
Basso, Watson, and Orr demonstrate how different
concepts can exist for the same category (in “American”
markets the condiment is focused on the sandwich; in
Asian markets this will not be the case).
Ereshevsky illustrates different means of defining identity
equivalence, as does the various ideas of works, texts, and
documents that will will be reading about next week.
Write in a clear, professional style. First person is fine.
I don’t care what citation format you use (no need to
“cite” class readings, just note pages if you quote
something). I don’t care what words you use.
A well-organized paper will serve your ideas better than
ornate language.
You can have some fun with it, but keep the jokes to a
My favorite papers are the ones that surprise me by
thinking about something differently, even if they don’t
entirely succeed.
Rules of thumb
Write a paper that is interesting to you and that
makes sense for the context of this class.
The instructions on the syllabus are supposed to
be helpful, and I recommend reading them.

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