2021 Volume 21 Pages 77-102
This study draws on interview data and visits to the informants’ homes in Japan. The aim is to analyze the changing trajectory of the relations that female Russian-speaking migrants have developed with consumer goods in their new country of settlement. The 1990s, when many informants in this study left Russia and other post-Soviet countries for Japan, were marked by political and economic turbulence in those places of origin. Even for people who moved to Japan later, memories of the shortage of consumer goods – experienced by them directly or by their parents, relatives, and friends – still constituted one of the core memories of the pre-migratory past. The paper examines how initial sentiments of denouncing the lifestyle one had before migration and euphoria about “limitless” consumer choices in the receiving country have changed as the women’s lives in Japan unfolded. These new sentiments were infused with such values as living modestly, getting by with little, being attentive to Earth, and maintaining gender and health consciousness. Some informants reported psychological discomfort over the overabundance of consumer goods, often as a result of inconclusive negotiations with family pertaining to consumer practices, gift exchanges, and the presence of items at home. Ultimately, the study explicates how lived experiences regarding consumer materiality in a migrant context lead to embodied critiques of consumer lifestyles and to the discursive construction of moral selves by these women.