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Classification struggles, moral criticism and the interethnic trade of prestige goods between two Romanian Roma groups

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


This article analyses the politics of consumption through contesting discourses rationalizing the interethnic trade of silver beakers and tankards carried out between two Romanian Roma groups. The members of these groups regard such objects as scarce prestige goods and political trophies imbued with emotional and identity value. The examined discourses focus on consumer practices and value preferences attributed to the negatively defined, ethnic other, and give a central role to strategies such as classification (or definition) struggles, moral criticism and stereotyping. The analysis demonstrates how members of these groups attach different meanings to the concept of a good/normal/ideal life, and to dichotomies such as average standard of living and luxuries, morally acceptable and morally stigmatized modes of consumption, and consumer modernism and conservatism when they explain their consumer choices. The analysis furthermore shows how – through the strategies mentioned above – these Roma construct their respective ethnic interpretations of consumer moral superiority.