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5 December 2023 - 5 December 2023

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Durham University Business School

Liquid Consumer Security (published in Journal of Consumer Research

Dr. Aleksandrina Atanasova, Bayes Business School


Systemic risks––pandemics, economic recessions, professional precarity, political volatility, and climate emergencies––increasingly erode previously taken-for-granted stabilities and consumers’ confidence in the future. How do consumers manage risk and uncertainty when economic and ontological security are on the decline? Traditionally, consumers have built a sense of security through solid consumption (e.g., home ownership, accumulating possessions). A four-year ethnography of digital nomadism, however, demonstrates that looming uncertainty can render solid consumption a source of vulnerability and an unwanted anchor in turbulent times that call for agility and adaptability. We outline the emergence of liquid consumer security, defined as a form of felt security that stems from avoidance of solid consumption and its risks and responsibilities. Liquid consumer security inheres in the absence of ownership, attachments, or rootedness, and is derived from circumventing the temporal demands, financial liabilities, and commitments that solid consumption requires, which emerge as sources of risk. It is achieved through a recursive process of engaging in three strategies: (1) solid risk minimization; (2) security reconstruction through the liquid marketplace; and (3) ideological legitimation. Contributions to consumer risk and security, liquid consumption, social theories of risk, and digital nomadism are discussed.

About Dr. Atanasova

Aleksandrina Atanasova is an Assistant Professor/Lecturer in Marketing at Bayes Business School. Alex is an expert in consumer behaviour, cultural insights and branding. Her research is situated within the tradition of culturally oriented consumer research scholarship known as Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) and focuses on the sociocultural, experiential, and symbolic aspects of consumption. Within this domain, she studies the effects of precarity, globalization and shifting social norms on consumers’ behaviours, particularly in relation to rising digitalization and dematerialization of consumption. Her most recent projects focus on the growing lifestyle movement of digital nomadism, where she explores topics such as symbolic consumption, materialism, status and consumer security in conditions of global mobility and minimal possessions.