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Liquid Relationship to Possessions

Fleura Bardhi, Giana M. Eckhardt and Eric J. Arnould
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 39, No. 3 (October 2012), pp. 510-529
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.1086/664037
Stable URL:
Page Count: 20
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Liquid Relationship to Possessions
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This study investigates consumers’ relationship to possessions in the condition of contemporary global nomadism. Prior research argues that consumers form enduring and strong attachments to possessions because of their centrality to identity projects. This role is heightened in life transitions including cross-border movements as possessions anchor consumer’s identities either to their homeland or to the host country. This study reexamines this claim via in-depth interviews with elite global nomads, deterritorialized consumers who engage in serial relocation and frequent short-term international mobility. An alternative relationship to possessions characterized by detachment and flexibility emerges, which is termed “liquid.” Three characteristics of a liquid relationship to possessions are identified: temporary situational value, use-value, and immateriality. The study outlines a logic of nomadic consumption, that of instrumentality, where possessions and practices are strategic resources in managing mobility. A liquid perspective on possessions expands current understandings of materiality, acculturation, and globalization.

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