Money: Ethnographic Encounters

Money: Ethnographic Encounters

Money: Ethnographic Encounters

Money: Ethnographic Encounters

Excerpt

In Money: Ethnographic Encounters, anthropologists offer first-hand accounts of fieldwork, paying particular attention to experiences they call “encounters” with money. Their stories, from a range of field sites including Malawi, China, Vietnam, El Salvador, Germany, Ukraine and Pakistan, are more descriptive than theoretical, more narrative that analytical. They reveal some of the ways money both expands and limits the relationships that make anthropology unique and productive. They demonstrate, moreover, the specific kind of insights that only experiential accounts can generate.

We want to be clear from the outset that our project here is not to produce an “anthropology of money.” Many such books have been written, and many of them are wonderful sources of insight into money as a cultural and trans-cultural object. We recognize the value of such works, and we have learned a great deal from them. Some, such as Simmel's The Philosophy of Money (1990 [1907]), Bloch and Parry's Money and the Morality of Exchange (1989) and Hart's Money in an Unequal World (2001), we have found particularly valuable. But our project here is somewhat different. We take money as our starting point, and we inquire into ways and occasions when it moves us into ethnographic experiences that seem particularly productive. We are interested in the ways anthropologists produce knowledge, and particularly in the ways anthropologists produce knowledge from their ethnographic fieldwork. The book, in other words, is about knowledge, and it examines experiences with money as a way of observing processes of knowledge-production.

Anthropologists have, by and large, ignored the role of money in their research. As anthropologists become familiar with their field sites, they tend to forget, at least in their official capacity as anthropologists, about the role that money plays in their work; money quickly fades into the texture of everyday life, eluding examination. Money is quietly buried in . . .

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