Liquid relationship to possessions

Fleura Bardhi, Giana M. Eckhardt, Eric J. Arnould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Citations (SciVal)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-529
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
Early online date12 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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