Accepted paper:

Buying as gift, buying as violence: transnational Chinese material practices in Japan as a moral debate

Authors:

James Coates (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

Based on textual analysis, netnography and participant observation among Chinese migrants in Japan, this paper explores how a recent boom in transnational informal economies between China and Japan are framed as both a form of parasitic violence and a form of gift.

Paper long abstract:

Sino-Japanese relations are increasingly typified by everyday circulations of people, things and practices. These various mobilities, from overseas study to overseas trade, have created a context where, on an everyday level, Japan and China increasingly resemble a transnational social field. This paper explores the practice of 'explosive buying' (bakugai/baomai) as an example of how mobile materialities generate this transnational field. 'Explosive buying' is a recently coined term in Chinese and Japanese that describes the popular practice of buying large quantities of commodities while Chinese people travel overseas. From Japanese washlet toilet seats to cosmetics and luxury brands, flows of goods from Japan to China have become a common way for tourists and migrants to turn a small profit while overseas. Moral panics over the practice of 'explosive buying' have erupted in news and online media in both China and Japan, reflecting the everyday frictions generated by Chinese peoples' increasing mobility and economic heft in Northeast Asia. Based on textual analysis, netnography and participant observation among migrants who facilitate this practice, this paper shows how 'explosive buying' and the circulating goods that substantiate this practice are framed as both a form of parasitic violence and a form of gift. Such a context raises questions of whether 'commodities' can be socially disembedded in a mobile context where economic debates are ostensibly moral ones; and, what kind of moralities are produced by the transnational circulation of objects.

panel P102
The power of mobile materialities: human movement, objects and the worlds they create [ANTHROMOB]