Table of Contents

A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

Elgar original reference

Edited by James G. Carrier

This unique Handbook contains substantial and invaluable summary discussions of work on economic processes and issues, and on the relationship between economic and non-economic areas of life. Furthermore it describes conceptual orientations that are important among economic anthropologists, and presents summaries of key issues in the anthropological study of economic life in different regions of the world. Its scope and accessibility make it useful both to those who are interested in a particular topic and to those who want to see the breadth and fruitfulness of an anthropological study of economics.

Chapter 11: Finance

Bill Maurer

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, economic psychology, methodology of economics, social policy and sociology, research methods in social policy, sociology and sociological theory

Extract

Bill Maurer Anthropological interest in finance has been growing since the 1980s, when speculative stock markets and the financialisation of the world economy occupied headlines and imaginations. Finance also took on new urgency because of the debt crises, currency devaluations and financial collapses that beset many traditional sites of anthropological fieldwork. While anthropologists were accustomed to documenting the effects of the global financial architecture, from institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to multinational corporations and extractive industries, finance itself – its mechanics, the entities that make it up, even its very definition – remained somewhat obscure. Few anthropologists had the training or inclination to get into the nuts and bolts of finance, and fewer still had any clear understanding of the field apart from their own personal experience with credit cards, mortgages and retirement accounts. When Arjun Appadurai issued the call to study ‘financescapes’, those ‘complex fiscal and investment flows’ of the ‘global grid of currency speculation and capital transfer’ (1990: 8) that have seemingly transformed older demarcations of region and place, few heeded it. That is beginning to change. The work surveyed in this chapter represents what may constitute a nascent subfield, the anthropology of finance. Drawing inspiration from work in other fields with a longer history of research on the topic, anthropologists are bringing the hallmark method of participantobservation and the theoretical tools of the discipline to bear on such diverse financial phenomena as stock markets, derivative contracts, mortgages and other debt instruments, the mathematical and...

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