Russian Dolls, Icons, and Pushkin: Practicing Cultural Identity through Material Possessions in Immigration

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Anna Pechurina

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Abstract

This article examines the meanings of home possessions and the connection of these meanings to migrants’ identity and culture, based on research investigating the homes of Russian migrants in the United Kingdom. Focusing on several types of objects (religious items, folk souvenirs, and books in the Russian language) that are often found in migrants’ homes, this paper looks at variations in the meanings of such home artifacts, as well as various strategies of self-identification utilized by migrants to negotiate their cultural identity and sense of belonging. The data demonstrates two main variations in the way Russian identity is expressed at home. The first category of informants, “refusers,” reflects the identity and experiences of those with an ambivalent attachment towards the UK; whereas the second, “acceptors,” relates to those who have a positive image of the UK and use various means to integrate themselves into the host culture. Based on interview material, I discuss several case studies that show how these variations in participants’ sense of identity are linked to the meaning of home possessions. In English, extensive summary in Russian.
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