CFP for Proposed Panel for AAA Meetings (November 20-24 2013--Chicago, Illinois) Submission Deadline April 10, 2013
Our proposed panel seeks both to further and to critically reevaluate the historically and theoretically informed approach to the anthropology of money outlined by Keith Hart in “Heads or Tails: Two Sides of the Coin” (1986). Foregrounding the mutual implication of state and market in money’s currency, Hart’s essay supplements a focus on these two sides of the coin with an attention to situations where money works “without benefit of states or merchants.” Over the almost three decades since its publication, Hart’s synthesis of classic works on token and commodity theories of (Western) money on the one hand and ethnographic inquiry into the workings of (non-Western) money on the other has proved extraordinarily influential.
Our panel seeks to revisit its central concerns on a number of fronts. First, we seek to open up to greater specification certain keywords that emerge from Hart’s janus-faced description of coinage: state(s) and market(s), person(s) and thing(s), anonymity(/ies) and intimacy(/ies). In doing so, we ask to what degree a careful attention to particular historical and ethnographic cases that cut across divides of Western and non-Western reveals these seemingly stable terms as territorially and temporally variable and dynamic?
Second, we wonder about the degree to which emphasizing the generative potential of juxtaposing Western monetary theory and the ethnography of non-Western monetary worlds serves both to concretize a more fundamental distinction between these two approaches to money than actually obtains in practice and to unnecessarily treat theory as the province of the Western and practice as the domain of the non-Western.
To this end, our proposed panel seeks papers that “reverse the charges” in at least two ways. First, we invite work that actively questions and redraws the boundaries between Western and non-Western money—perhaps by inquiring into situations where Western currencies and categories circulate beyond their usual circuits. Such a focus might be material or historical (e.g., on Manillas and other Western-made trade moneys in Africa or elsewhere, or on Carolus Pesos, U.S. Dollars, Euros and other simultaneously local and trans-local currencies in the pre-(or post)national currency eras). Equally it might be theoretical or ethnographic, looking at how concepts of money do or do not travel, do or do not interconvert.
In line with such speculations, we also seek along with accounts that chart the blurring of West and non-West, money and non-money, papers that, moreover, make of such hybrid forms and practices a primary locus for theorization. Rather than subverting local instances to global theories of state and market, token and commodity, we invite work that takes the absence of “states or merchants” (or even coins for that matter) not as an all or nothing thing—in which one alternately confirms the presence or absence of familiar Western forms—but as an invitation to produce new materially grounded theories of money’s potent dualities that might both further and prompt critical reevaluations of Hart’s formative work.
Co-organizers: Chris Vasantkumar, Anthropology, Hamilton College; Robert Blunt, Religious Studies, Lafayette College. Please send an abstract no more than 250 words in length and brief paragraph length bio to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than April 10, 2013.
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