Consumption and Economic Crises

A workshop on Russian and Post-socialist Experiences

Consumers in much of the global north are concerned with austerity, cutting back on spending and finding new ways to make do and mend. In Moscow, however, there are not so many signs of the 2007 global financial crisis and its aftermath. Luxury products, new housing developments and shopping malls are widely advertised, and heavily populated with Moscovites weighed down with bags. A local financial services firm ran an ad campaign in Moscow recently with the headline, 'There is no crisis'. Alongside the slogan was a picture of a white man in a business suit, holding fistfuls of rubles, with an upward jagged line drawn across his face. For this imaginary man in the advertisement, profits are good. The economy is looking 'up' in the graph on his face, and with the cash in his hands. Major banks are also running campaigns encouraging consumer credit, with pictures of elders buying gifts for grandchildren, and smiling women in newly fitted kitchens. But alongside these celebratory messages are advertisements for credit of almost every variety. Flybills with offers of loans are pasted inside Metro carriages, on lamp posts, inside bus shelters, on shop fronts, usually with very few remaining tear-away strips to flutter enticingly at passers-by.

Post-socialist countries, and Russia in particular, are home to fully articulated consumer cultures that are configured differently from those of American and European consumer capitalist cultures. One of the goals of this conference is to explore disjunctions and continuities between consumer cultures and experiences of ‘crisis’ within and between post-socialist countries, and post-socialist and other countries. The conference focuses on three aspects of urban post-socialist consumer cultures: contemporary consumption practices and economic lives; how these practices are shaped by migration and access to new financial services and institutions; and Russian experiences and understandings of global, regional and local economic crises.

This workshop will take place on October 9th-10th 2014 at the National Research University - Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia. Our keynote speakers are Alya Guseva (Boston University) and Olga Shevchenko (Williams College).

Abstracts of 450 words should be submitted by March 15th 2014 to workshop @ For further information about topics of interest, download the Call for Papers.

Organisers: Sandy Ross, Chris Swader, John Round