In this recording from the Society for Economic Anthropology’s 2022 annual conference in Copenhagen, Aneil asks conference organizer Matthew Archer, Assistant Professor in Sustainability at the University of York, what economic anthropology means to him. Matthew outlines how he moved at the beginning of his PhD from an economics track to economic anthropology. An early mentor, Karen Hébert, told him that economics is full of assumptions, and anthropology is very good at questioning these assumptions. Matthew describes a moment in his masters program in environmental economics when he realized that the prices used in economics are deeply flawed. In his subsequent research on tea supply chains and sustainable finance, Matthew continues to question data driven sustainability solutions, to try to imagine and support alternative approaches.
In this recording from the Society for Economic Anthropology’s 2022 annual conference in Copenhagen, Aneil asks Cindy Isenhour, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Climate Change at the University of Maine, what economic anthropology means to her. Cindy gives both a personal and an academic response to the question.
Her personal response charts her journey from graduate school to becoming a professor and economic anthropologist, which was guided by welcoming and supportive mentors in the Society for Economic Anthropology. Cindy’s academic response emphasizes that economic anthropology allows researchers to focus on movement. Much of economic anthropology centers on how ideas, people and things are exchanged and move from place to place and this allows us to understand culture change and societal shifts.
Aneil’s second recording from the Society for Economic Anthropology’s 2022 annual conference in Copenhagen is with Brie Berry, an economic and environmental anthropologist at the University of Maine’s Center for Sustainability Solutions. Brie charts her career journey towards economic anthropology, and how the sub-discipline informs her research on the circular economy. For Brie, economic anthropology allows her to make sense of the complex relationships between people and stuff, and how they create livelihoods and lives that achieve wellbeing. Economic anthropology allows Brie to make sense of social and environmental values that traditional economics can ignore.
Aneil’s first recording in this series is with Daniel Souleles, one of the organizer’s of this year’s meeting and an economic and political anthropologist at Copenhagen Business School. Recorded at Dan’s most recent field site, the Massachusetts Capitol Building, Aneil and Dan talk about his take on economic anthropology and the perspective that guides his past research on financiers in private equity and his current project on how bills get passed in Massachusetts.
In this podcast Jenny speaks with Sibel Kusimba about her book Reimagining Money: Kenya in the Digital Finance Revolution. Sibel explains how digital finance draws upon longstanding practices of reciprocity and exchange in Kenyan society, but she also discusses some of the ways digital money is reconfiguring social lives and relations. Their conversation highlights how anthropological perspectives can enhance understandings of the way money takes on multiple meanings in social life.
In this episode Jenny Huberman speaks with Jim Smith, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Davis, about his new book, The Eyes of the World: Mining the Digital Age in the Eastern Congo. Their conversation focuses on people who are the very center of powering the digital age but who most listeners will likely know little about: the artisanal miners and traders who work in the forests of Eastern Congo to extract minerals that are used to produce many of the digital technologies we reply upon today. Jim explains how the extractive industry of artisanal mining not only keeps the wheels of digital capitalism spinning, but also becomes a generative practice through which miners imagine and construct social lives and relationships that defy many of the dominant logics of capitalism. In so doing, he makes a powerful case for the role anthropology can play in enhancing and complexifying our understandings of capitalism in the digital age.
In this episode, Jenny Huberman speaks with anthropologist, media scholar, and Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Mary L. Gray. They discuss Mary’s highly acclaimed book, Ghost Work: How to prevent Silicon Valley from creating a Global Underclass, which she co-authored with Siddharth Suri. Their conversation explores the experiences of on-demand platform workers, as well as the way the platform economy is changing conceptions of work and employment more generally. In discussing how digital technologies are radically reconfiguring work for millions of people around the globe, Mary also challenges the idea that digital technologies will inevitably render human labor obsolete in the future. Humans, she reminds us, do certain kinds of work that cannot be attended to by A.I. or other automated processes, and thus, they are likely to remain “in the loop” for many years to come.
In this episode, Jenny Huberman speaks with Jathan Sadowski, a research fellow in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University and author of Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World. They discuss how digital capitalism is both similar to and different from, previous forms of capital accumulation and domination and they discuss some of the ways smart technologies are used to facilitate these processes. While Sadowski offers a trenchant critique of the way smart technologies are used to enhance corporate technocratic power, he also provides listeners with some paths for resisting, if not reforming capitalism in the digital age.
Is work (as we know it) on its way out? Some certainly think so, and they have not hesitated to envision the kinds of lives and societies that would be possible in a world that is founded not on formal wage labor but something like universal basic income. But here is the thing: ethnographers in different parts of the world have found that many of the people who would benefit the most from such a shift are still very much committed to employment—they want money, but they would prefer that it be a wage and not a cash transfer. In this episode, Kelly chats with Dr. Liz Fouksman about enduring attachments to formal wage labor and what she calls the “moral economy of work” in South Africa and Namibia.
Liz Fouksman is a Lecturer in Social Justice at the Centre for Public Policy Research in the School of Education, Communication, and Society at King’s College London. Her scholarship has appeared in various outlets, including Economy and Society, World Development, and Africa.
In this episode, Kelly catches up with Jong Bum Kwon and Carrie M. Lane about their landmark 2016 volume, Anthropologies of Unemployment: New Perspectives on Work and its Absence. Pulling together disparate threads of an emergent anthropological interest in unemployment, Kwon, Lane, and their contributors helped define a critical subfield in the wake of the global financial crisis. Revisiting the volume from the perspective of 2021 reveals a remarkably prescient book with questions and theoretical interventions that have only become more illuminative with time.
Jong Bum Kwon is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Webster University. His scholarship has appeared in various journals, including American Ethnologist and Critique of Anthropology, and he is the co-editor of Anthropologies of Unemployment: New Perspectives on Work and its Absence (Cornell University Press).
Carrie M. Lane is Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. Her scholarship has appeared in various journals, including American Ethnologist and the Anthropology of Work Review. She is the author of A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment (Cornell University Press) and the co-editor of Anthropologies of Unemployment: New Perspectives on Work and its Absence (Cornell University Press).