Being cosmopolitan: the consumption practices and behaviors of consumers betwixt and between marketplaces

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Contemporary global nomadism is an emerging phenomenon enabled by the far-reaching forces of globalization, whereby people voluntarily chose to embrace lifestyles of continuous mobility be- tween different countries and cultures. This research examines how do nomadic cosmopolitan consumers navigate through diverse constellations of sociocultural environments, marketplace offerings, possessions, experiences and brands while transitioning from one location to another. Following the theoretical paradigms of practice theory, this study advances the notion that cosmo- politan nomadism is a complex social practice – consisting of material artifacts, skills, routines, teleoaffective structures, and cultural understandings – which attracts and “recruits” individuals, and which becomes a foundational building block of their social life. Based on insight from a series of phenomenological interviews with nomadic cosmopolitans, it is suggested that consumption emerges through and for the sake of migrants’ participation as practitioners in the nomadic cos- mopolitan practice. Within this operational context, meanings, doings and material artifacts are orchestrated through three primary dispersed practices of anchoring, immersion and divestment. Consumption varies within each of those practices as they influence the kinds of brands, products and possessions consumers orient themselves towards, or detach from, throughout the temporal phases that segment the length of time one spends in a certain location – namely, phases of arri- val, settling in and departure. The perspective offered by this study illuminates a new theoretical angle through which we can begin to better understand the trajectory of possessions, brands, experiences and beliefs in condi- tions of continuous transnational mobility. It shows that nomadic cosmopolitanism is dynamic and individually differentiated – hence, it is the fact of one’s unique way of engagement in the practice that explains individuated processes of consumption. This research suggests that percep- tions of value and utility, as well as symbolic meaning of objects and activities, pivot around com- plex cognitive structures and subject positions, and evolve continuously as one changes as a practi- tioner, not only in the grander scheme of his/her life, but also within the temporal frame of a single residency.
Thesis advisor
Tillotson, Jack
social practices, practice theory, mobility, cosmopolitans, acculturation, globalization, nomads, modernity, global nomadism, migrants
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