Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2013

The Anthropology of Money

Lecturer: Professor Jane Guyer,
Department of Anthropology,
Johns Hopkins University,
USA

Main disciplines: Anthropology, Sociology

Dates: 22 - 26 July 2013
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants
 

Objectives
Money may be amongst the most powerful of human inventions, and yet its nature, use, meaning and legitimacy have come intermittently under close scrutiny, by the people and scholars alike. Anthropology has been concerned with exchange and value for about a century. The study of money was simply one aspect of that concern. It was the new configuration consisting of a) monetary proliferation and turbulent exchange rates since the 1960s, b) the increasing monetization of life in the non-west, as an aspect of development, especially under structural adjustment after 1980, and c) the great expansion of the financial sector and global credit, debt and investment, since 1989 and culminating in the crisis of 2008, that together made money itself a compelling topic for new analytical and comparative research by anthropologists working all over the world. A key theme has been the tension between a universalist definition of money and the evident heterogeneity of monies in history and society. In anthropology, we give prominent place to the empirical record, reaching back to existing sources in ethnography, archeology and museum studies; outwards to other disciplines, such as economic history, sociology and philosophy/religion (for ethical issues); and deeply inward to adapt ethnographic methods to new arenas, such as the western financial sector and the new mobile money systems amongst poor populations. Some of the discipline’s most challenging issues are being addressed with respect to money: such as the meaning and practice of commensuration in a turbulent world, and the vectors of power amidst multiplicity.

The seminar employs a historical-disciplinary approach to identify and discuss the key themes in the present expansion of the anthropology of money. The seminar is crafted around the instructor’s assumption that its participants will be the cohort of the future in this field, so we start with an overview of the present, since 2008, depicting the rejection of a) reductionism in theory, b) the assumption of a single, or ideal, currency in monetary practice, and c) any diffidence the discipline may have felt in the 20th century about addressing financial centers and formal structures as ethnographic sites. The instructor’s own work on Africa is used as an example and as a personal introduction. We move next to examine the uses made of classic social theory in these new works, from Aristotle through Marx, Simmel and Polanyi, with some attention to major theorists in economics (Keynes, von Hayek) and to earlier anthropology (Mintz). We then look at ethnographies: of finance (in the U.S. and Japan), of the management of multiple currencies elsewhere in the world (Europe and China), and of the mediation of rapid change in monetary institutions. The course ends with an examination of new propositions for general theory, and with an analytical topic of rising concern, namely the process by which prices and a sense of equivalence are created in the present monetized global economy.

Alongside the lectures, we will develop bibliographies on relevant themes that can only be touched upon in class (such as numeration, or particular regions and historical eras, or institutions such as the new micro-finance). I will discuss proposed field projects with each participant.

 

Essential Works, to read in advance:

  • Guyer, Jane I. 2012. Soft Currencies, Cash Economies, New Monies: Past and Present. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109:2214-2221
  • Maurer, Bill. 2006. The Anthropology of Money. Annual Review of Anthropology. 35: 15-36
  • Peebles, Gustav. 2010. The Anthropology of Credit and Debt. Annual Review of Anthropology 39:225-40
  • Polanyi, Karl. 1962. The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Maurer, Bill. ed. 2012 Cultural Anthropology Hotspot, Theorizing the Contemporary. “Finance”, Eighteen short articles. http://culanth.org/?q=node/561
     


We will study selections from some of the following full-length ethnographies and edited collections:

  • Akin, David and Joel Robbins. 1999. Money and Modernity. State and Local Currencies in Melanesia. University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Parry, Jonathan and Maurice Bloch. 1989. Money and the Morality of Exchange. Cambridge  University Press.
  • Chu, Julie. 2010. Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China. Duke  University Press.
  • Guyer, Jane. 2004 Marginal Gains. Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa. University of  Chicago Press.
  • Ho, Karen. 2009. Liquidated. An Ethnography of Wall St. Duke University Press.
  • Maurer, Bill. 2005. Mutual Life, Limited. Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral  Reason. Princeton University Press
  • Peebles, Gustav. 2011. The Euro and Its Rivals: Currency and the Construction of a Transnational City. Indiana University Press.
  • Shipton, Parker. 1989. Bitter money: Cultural economy and some African meanings of forbidden commodities. American Anthropological Association.
  • Verdery, Katherine. 1996. What was Socialism and what comes next? Princeton U. Press.
     

If we have enough French comprehension in the class, we will read some important recent works in French. I will, in any case, refer in lecture to works by Michel Callon (on quantification), Jean-Michel Servet (on the euro) and Bruno Théret (on monetary multiplicity).

 

COURSE OUTLINE

Day 1: Tour of the Horizon: the present condition and past works

A.M.

a) The puzzle of money, since the 2008 crisis and the euro question. Several short notes by, and about, anthropology, instability and money today.

Readings:

  • Tett, Gillian. 2009. Fool’s Gold. How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted and Created a Financial Catastrophe. P.252-4.
  • The Economist. 2011. More anthropologists on Wall Street, please. Oct 24th 2011 (downloaded March 21st 2012).
  • Hart, Keith. 2006 (written). The Euro. A Challenge to Anthropological Method.  http://thememorybank.co.uk/papers/the-euro-a-challenge-for-anthropological- method/
  • Hart, Keith and Horacio Ortiz. 2008. Anthropology in the financial crisis. Anthropology Today, Vol 24, 6: 1-3.
  • Hart, Keith. 2012. The roots of the global economic crisis. Anthropology Today. Vol. 28, 2:
  • Other short news items, e.g. on the gold flight from Afghanistan to Dubai.

b) The anthropology of money before the rise of finance: some key initiatives from the disciplinary past.

Readings:

  • Hart, Keith. 1986. Heads or Tails? Two Sides of the Coin. Man 21,4: 637-658.
  • Neale, Walter. C. 1976. Monies in Societies. San Francisco: Chandler and Sharpe, 1-11.
  • Parry, Jonathan and Maurice Bloch. 1989. Introduction, in their Money and the Morality of  Exchange. Cambridge University Press, 1-32.

 

P.M.

a) Some early ethnographies and histories 

Readings:

  • Bohannan, Paul. 1955. Some Principles of Exchange and Investment among the Tiv. American Anthropologist 57, 1: 60-70.
  • Braudel, Fernand. 1979 (In French) 1981.Section 7: Money. In his The Structures of  Everyday Life. The Limits of the Possible Vol. 1 in his Civilization and Capitalism 15th - 18th Century. Harper and Row, 436-478.
  • Steiner, Franz. Written 1949-52. Published 1999. Notes on Comparative Economics. In Jeremy Adler and Richard Fardon. Orientpolik, Value and Civilisation. Franz Baerman Steiner, Selected Writings, Vol. 2, 160-173.
  • Shipton, Parker. 1989. Bitter money: Cultural economy and some African meanings of forbidden commodities. American Anthropological Association.
     

b) My own trajectory, 1981-2012

Readings:

  • Guyer, Jane I. 2012. Soft Currencies, Cash Economies, New Monies: Past and Present. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109:2214-2221
  • ----1985 "The Iron Currencies of Southern Cameroon." Symbols.
  • -----1995 “Introduction: The Currency Interface and Its Dynamics.” In Jane Guyer (ed.). Money Matters: Instability and Values in the Social History of West African Communities. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1-33.
  • ---- 2004 Introduction: Diversity, Bewilderment and the Multiplicity of African Money. In Marginal Gains. Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa. Chicago: University of  Chicago Press, 1-26.

 

Day 2: Reaching back for theoretical sources: questions of origins and functions

A.M.

a) Classical theoretical sources: political economy, from Aristotle to the mid-20th century.

Readings:

  • Aristotle, Politics, Bk I, Chs 8-10.
  • Caffentzis, C. George. 1989. “Clipped Coins” in His Clipped Coins, Abused Words and Civil Government. John Locke’s Philosophy of Money. New York:Autonomedia, 17-44.
  • Smith, Adam. (any edition) The Wealth of Nations. Chs IV, V and VI.
  • Marx, Karl. Sections TBA from Suzanne de Brunhoff 1976. Marx on Money
     

b) Cultural questions about money, value and subjectivity: Aristotle, the Bible, Simmel.

Readings:

  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Book IV, Chs 1 and 2.
  • The Bible. 1 Timothy 6.
  • Simmel, Georg. 1986 (first published in German 1900). The possession of money and the self. In The Philosophy of Money, 326-334.
  • We may look at the “value of the (free) person”: from the Bible to the distribution of the 9/11 compensation fund (sources to be given hard copy, in class)

 

P.M.

a) The uses of classics in new work on “alternative” systems

Readings:

  • Maurer, Bill. 2005. Mutual Life, Limited. Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral  Reason. Princeton University Press
  • Peebles, Gustav. 2011. The Euro and Its Rivals: Currency and the Construction of a Transnational City. Indiana University Press.Sections


b) The other social sciences: abstraction, materiality, institutions

Readings:

  • Zelizer, Viviana. 1994. The Social Meaning of Money. Basic Books. Ch 1 The Marking  of  Money, 1-37.
  • Carruthers, Bruce and Wendy Espeland. 1991. Accounting for Rationality: Double-Entry Bookkeeping and the Rhetoric of Economic Rationality. American Journal of Sociology 97,1: 31-69.
  • TBA: Heterodox Economics, Philosophy, History of Science (Callon)

 

Day 3: The rise of an anthropology of finance: “markets” in “commercial paper”

A.M.

a) and b) Ethnographies of finance

Readings:

  • Ho, Karen. 2009. Liquidated. An Ethnography of Wall St. Duke University Press.
  • De Goede, Marieke. 2005. Finance, Gambling and Speculation. Ch 3. in her Virtue, Fortune and Faith. A Genealogy of Finance. University of Minnesota Press, 47-85.
  • Zaloom, Caitlin. 2005. The Discipline of Speculators. In Ong and Collier, Global Assemblages, 253-69.
  • Miyazaki, Hiro. 2004. Temporalities of the Market. American Ethnologist 
  • Verdery, Katherine.1996. Faith, Hope and Caritas in the Land of the Pyramids, Romania, 1990-1994. In her What was Socialism and what comes next? Princeton U. Press, 168-203


P.M.

a) Debates from Finance, and their implications for an anthropology of money.

Reading:

  • Maurer, Bill. ed. 2012 Cultural Anthropology Hotspot, Theorizing the Contemporary. “Finance”, Eighteen short articles. http://culanth.org/?q=node/561


b) Continued and updated with new work in press.

 

Day 4: New Empirical Studies and New General Theory

A.M.

a) and b) Case Study Ethnographies of Monetary Multiplicity: China and Europe

Readings:

  • Chu, Julie. 2010. Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China. Duke  University Press.
  • Peebles, Gustav. 2011. The Euro and Its Rivals: Currency and the Construction of a Transnational City. Indiana University Press. Ethnographic sections.
  • Blanc, Jerôme. 2010. Community and Complementary Currencies. In Hart, Laville and  Cattani (eds.) The Human Economy. Polity Press, 303-312.
     

P.M.

a) and b) Compendia and a return to origins, variety, and dynamics: Graeber on Debt, Maurer.

Readings:

  • Graeber, David. 2012. Debt. The First Five Thousand Years. Excerpts.
  • Maurer, Bill. Reviews, Papers TBA.

 

Day 5: Analytical challenges: commensuration, price, and the meaning of equivalence

A.M.

a) Towards a new anthropology of price and number. The rise of numeration and accounting.

Readings:

  • Crump, Thomas.1990 Ch. 6. Measurement, comparison and equivalence. In his The  Anthropology of Numbers. Cambridge University Press, 72-80.
  • Guyer, Jane I., Naveeda Khan and Juan Obarrio, with others. 2010. Introduction. Special Section on Number As Inventive Frontier. Anthropological Theory 10, 1-2: 36-61.
  • Kuroda, Akinobu. Units of Account TBA
  • Neiburg, Federico. 2010. Sick Currencies and Public Numbers. Anthropological Theory.  10,1-2: 96-102.
  • --------Recent work on Haiti
     

b) Price and the meaning of equivalence in monetary terms.

Readings:

  • Guyer, Jane. 2009. Composites, fictions and risk: toward an ethnography of price. In Market and Society. The Great Transformation Today. Edited by Chris Hann and Keith Hart. Cambridge University Press, 203-220.
  • Martino, Gabrielle. 2010. Notes on Providing a Formal Definition of Equivalence. Anthropological Theory 10, 1-2, 143-148
  • Espeland, Wendy and M.L. Stevens. 1998. Commensuration as a Social Process. Annual Review of Sociology.
     

P.M.

Key themes for the future: in the world and the discipline

Readings:

  • To be decided during the week.


Papers: will be devoted to either

  1. working out a research proposal on the topic each student defined at the beginning of the course, or;
  2. A theoretical/analytical topic, working from the readings.

 

 The lecturer
Jane I. Guyer is George Armstrong Kelly Professor in the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins University. She has taught at Harvard, Boston University, Northwestern University (where she was also Director of the Program of African Studies), and at Johns Hopkins. Her fieldwork has been carried out mainly in Nigeria and Cameroon, devoted to the history and organization of local economies. She started to work on African currencies in the early 1980s, in connection with her work on price and budgets amongst food-producing households in the urban provisioning hinterlands of large cities. Author of many papers on issues of money and finance, her book on African systems is entitled Marginal Gains: Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2004). She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2008, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and was awarded the Distinguished Africanist Award of the African Studies Association (USA) in 2012. 

 

Tags: Anthropology, Social Anthropology, Sociology, Money, Economics, PhD
Published Aug. 30, 2018 8:56 AM - Last modified Aug. 30, 2018 8:56 AM