Report on the Conference "Financialisation Beyond Crisis: Connections, Contradictions, Contestations"

November 26, 2018

During nearly three days of intensive exchanges at the Max Planck Institute on 10 through 12 September 2018, sixteen papers covering a wide range of issues pertaining to financialisation were discussed in a manner that transcended disciplinary boundaries between anthropology, sociology and political economy.

The opening keynote was delivered by Deborah James (LSE), who described and compared mechanisms for dealing with household indebtedness in Britain and South Africa. While she privileged the point of view of the ethnographer and argued that capitalist financial institutions can be significantly modified by "redistribution" at the micro-level of society, in his own Keynote at the end of the second day Don Kalb placed financial markets in the context of a historically informed account of capitalist accumulation at the macro level and, at the same time, of the development of anthropological theory. Most contributors (including the six postdoctoral researchers who have been working together on the MPI project "Financialisation" over the last three years) eschewed abstract theory in order to concentrate on their empirical materials. These were drawn from all over the world. Themes ranged from welfare retraction in India (Sohini Kar) to the Norwegian Oil Fund (Knut Christian Myhre), and from Islamic banks in Malaysia (Aaron Pitluck) to current forms of economic nationalism in Turkey (Fırat Kurt). The majority of papers offered description and analyis at the level of local communities and their constituent households. Many paid close attention to contestation, from changing discursive constructions of the urban underclass in Britain (Ryan Davey) to organized tenant rebellions in Spain (Jaime Palomera). During the last morning of the meeting horizons were further widened by sociologist Richard Robbins, who in addition to offering an original conceptualization of "monetary streams" reminded participants of the importance of metaphors and rhetorical tropes in the construction of all economic knowledge, and by Gavin Smith, who (not for the first time on our premises) did an excellent job in leading the final discussion. In addition, several invited Discussants provided valuable inputs that kept the conversations flowing: Stephen Gudeman, Hadrien Saiag, James Carrier, and Laura Bear (in absentia).

This event, which attracted considerable from other parts of the Institute and outside it, marked the conclusion of the three-year project "Financialisation" (although two of the postdoctoral researchers, Tristam Barrett and Natalia Buier, will continue working at the MPI in Halle until Spring 2019).
Chris Hann and Don Kalb will now be editing the papers for a volume in the series "Max Planck Studies in Anthropology and Economy" (Berghahn Books).

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