Trust and markets. Investigating social and cultural dimensions of trust.
Panel abstract for the AAA meeting in December 2009.
Organisers: Timm Lau (email@example.com) and Benjamin Rubbers (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A developed body of literature on trust as an analytical concept exists in sociology, philosophy and economics. By contrast, the anthropological literature is comparatively poor: with few exceptions, anthropologists have neglected the explicit study of trust. Some existing anthropological studies on bazaar economies, markets and trade networks do engage with the topic of trust, but remain relatively unsophisticated in dealing with trust as an analytical concept.
However, anthropology has the potential to vastly enhance our understanding of trust, through its ethnographic method, by producing analyses of the negotiation of trust in context, and by taking into account the cultural dimension of trust as well as the creation and maintenance of trust in social networks. As a discipline, anthropology has long bridged the imagined “divide” between the economic and the moral, arguing that the economic life of exchange and value is intrinsically also moral in nature.
By focusing on trust in the context of markets, this panel will therefore build on a latent tradition in anthropology, and attempt to deepen it both ethnographically and theoretically. The aims of the panel are twofold: first, to present papers that are focused on trust in markets, and thus build on the existing anthropological groundwork. The current crisis in global financial markets and the subsequent downturn in global economies show just how important a focused study of this topic is for our understanding of economic contexts. Secondly, in doing so, the panel will present pioneering work for the anthropological investigation of trust as an analytical concept more generally, and contribute to laying the foundations of an anthropological approach to trust. The panel presenters would therefore welcome papers which combine a focus on trust in the context of markets with anthropological theoretical sophistication.
The following are possible areas of investigation within the framework of this panel:
• How is trust developed, maintained and broken in the context of markets and economic interaction?
• Is trust in the context of economic interaction different from trust in other social contexts? Does “economic trust” exist, as a distinct form of trust?
• How is trust produced in markets through words, gestures, symbols, exchanges between persons? How is trust developed between business partners? How is it mediated in exchange and market relationships? How can we understand the importance of friendship and kinship in this context?
• How is a break in trust at the institutional level, due for example to the financial crisis, negotiated at the personal level?
• Do ethnic and other stereotypes influence the production of trust? How do trust relationships between individuals, for example minorities in business, contribute to the structuring of markets?
Papers may also reflect on the anthropological literature to discuss how anthropologists have analysed trust in the past. How has the study of trust been developed, in which sub-fields and with which theoretical references? Why has trust been largely omitted from the variety of analytical concepts within classical anthropology? How are we to think about the relationship between anthropology, sociology, and economy in the study of trust?
The aim of this panel is to offer empirical data and theoretical insight to develop an anthropology of trust. Please forward a short abstract of 250 words to both panel organisers no later than 15 March 2009. The above list of questions is not exhaustive, and all paper proposals dealing with trust in the context of markets (in the wider sense of the term) are welcome.
Université de Liège
7, boulevard du rectorat (B31)
B-4000 Liège Email: email@example.com
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