Shuttling Goods, Weaving Consumer Tastes: Informal Trade between Turkey and Russia


In ‘top down’ conceptualizations of globalization, people often enter the analytical picture merely as resisters to globalization or as receivers of corporate produced goods, messages and ideas. This article, in contrast, focuses on a process in which ‘ordinary’ people are the active makers of global processes and meanings. I describe the transnational trade network between post‐Soviet countries and Turkey, in which Western fashions and images get circulated and transformed through the activities of informal entrepreneurs. I thus challenge accounts of globalization in which the dissemination of images is depicted as a top down process originating in corporations located in metropolitan countries. Based on ethnographic evidence collected in Istanbul and Moscow on the informal ‘shuttle trade’, I demonstrate that the mobility of ‘ordinary’ people across borders facilitates the flows of signs and images. Moreover, Western images and fashions get remoulded and acquire new meanings in the process of circulation.