Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Primary Theme: Exchange
In 2015, a report from the International Monetary Fund called attention to a novel financial phenomenon: “There has been a rapid expansion of pan-African banks (PABs) in recent years, with [...] a systemic presence in around 36 countries. Overall, the PABs are now much more important in Africa than the long-established European and American banks." It is the contention of this panel that Africa is not alone in the Global South. Euro-American institutions are today playing increasingly marginal roles in Global South finance, where private and public actors alike are turning towards national, regional, and south-south finance to provide capital for investment projects across sectors.
This panel gathers together scholars who are exploring this contemporary transformation in global finance. Although Africa is exemplary of this changing economic landscape, we aim for a broader conversation that re-centers contemporary economic practices in the postcolonial world. European and American scholars have largely understood these economies as exceptional cases to the putative norms of industrialized economies. They are often characterized as either “informal” and therefore outside the purview of modern state regulation, or they are “extractive” and framed as a continuation of long-held imperial inequalities.
This panel (and another thematically linked one) take a different approach. Rather than beginning with the presumption of difference, exception, or exploitation, we explore how the Global South is challenging old financial arrangements. In particular, the papers gathered here consider ‘risk in a number of valences. We want to examine how--and if--familiar financial forms and techniques are being infused with new cultural and political values. We are especially interested in new challenges to Euro-American financial dominance that re-formulate the conventional wisdom on the “peripheral” postcolonial economy. These are ethnographic inquiries into how specific economic practices, tools, and techniques enact--or obstruct--such novel economic imaginaries.
The papers foreground the practical labor of economizing relatively mobile, portable, and modular techniques and forms for the perception and management of risk. They focus on specific economic techniques (e.g., credit monitoring and insurance) and forms (e.g., stock exchanges or charitable bonds) and ask: how do relations of credit/debt, exchange, and ownership transcend the assumed particularity of a single location? How might our view of “global finance” shift with postcolonial varieties of risk at the center of inquiry, rather than the so-called periphery?
This panel and its kin, Postcolonial Capital I: Regulation from the Financial “Periphery”, reflect an expansive interest in these shared topics.