9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Consumption as Distinction Building II, C5.01

Looking Russian or Estonian? Young consumers constructing the ethnic "self" and "other"

Our paper analyzes clothing style and taste as resources for social participation and identity creation in Estonia - a multi-ethnic post-Soviet transition society. Theoretically our paper draws on concepts of "glocal" youth consumer culture in which style plays a major role. We also build on studies of ethnicity and consumption which analyze interrelationships between consumersĀ“ home and host culture as well as transnational consumer culture We conducted interviews with 11 Estonian and 12 Russian young people in 2008. Our focus is: how do young adults of Estonia construct ethnic "selves" and "others" with the help of symbolic resources provided by consumer culture. Using qualitative text analysis we look at young peopleĀ“s representations of clothing style, accessories and brand choice. Almost exclusively transnational consumer culture is drawn upon by the interviewees. The symbolic resources offered by the transnational production of fashion are appropriated in the local context of interethnic relations in varied forms. Both groups express their affiliation and criticism towards their in-group and appreciation and disrespect towards the "other" through a gendered discourse of good and bad taste. Glamour is described in detail, represented usually as bad taste and attributed to both ethnic groups by both groups of informants. Brands are prominent symbols used as elements to construct stereotypical identities with. The "hybrid strategy" of blurring styles is evident among both ethnic groups. However, this can easiliy be interpreted as ethnic assimilation thus limiting the possibilities of self-expression.