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Towards a theory of identity anchoring: Transnational mobile professionals

Fleura Bardhi, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation advances the theoretical framework of identity anchoring, by defining and distinguishing the concepts of anchoring points and anchoring mechanisms, and their interrelationship. This framework enables the study of two fundamental issues: (1) the role of place and social relations in identity anchoring of postmodern consumers; and (2) the role consumption of commercial products, services, and settings in anchoring identity to places and relations. The empirical context of this study is the global consumer segment of highly mobile professionals with cosmopolitan orientation. ^ This study uses 35 semi-structured interviews mobile professionals and finds that place and social relations continue to provide salient identity anchoring points even in conditions of geographical mobility and cosmopolitanism. Salient relationships and home-places provide transnational mobile professionals with a sense of self-identity as well as a sense of being oriented in space and time; they also influence important life and consumption decisions. However, this study finds that the nature of identity anchoring in place and relationships has changed. These mobile professionals are more likely to anchor (1) relationships than places; (2) in portable, deterritorialized types of homes and relationships; (3) in permanent and temporary relationships and places; and (4) in multiple social and spatial anchoring points. This study identifies six different notions of home and three types of relationships that serve as anchoring points for transnational mobile professionals. Further, the study shows that the type of geographical mobility and cosmopolitanism influence the nature of identity anchoring. ^ The key contribution of the dissertation is in providing an alternative to the consumer behavior identity conceptualization of “we are what we have or consume”, and arguing for a mediating role of consumption as a linking mechanism to sustain identity anchoring to social and spatial anchoring points. Transnational mobile professionals consume actively products, services and settings that generate co-presence with, remind them of, and imitate home-places and relationships. This enables to either sustain relationship to distant home-places and relationships or recreate a sense of home on the road. The framework of identity anchoring also identifies conditions under which different commercial anchoring mechanisms are important. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Marketing

Recommended Citation

Bardhi, Fleura, "Towards a theory of identity anchoring: Transnational mobile professionals" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3147133.