What is Economic Anthropology? with Dan Souleles

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.

Reimaging Money in Kenya: A Conversation with Sibel Kusimba

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.

Mining the Digital Age in Eastern Congo: A Conversation with Jim Smith

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.

Ghost Workers and the On-Demand Platform Economy: A Conversation with Mary L. Gray

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.

How Digital Capitalism is Taking over our Lives: A Conversation with Jathan Sadowski

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.

Unpacking the “Moral Economy of Work”: A Conversation with Liz Fouksman

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.

Revisiting Anthropologies of Unemployment: A Conversation with Jong Bum Kwon and Carrie Lane

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).

Neoliberalism, Unemployment, and the Post-pandemic Workplace: A Conversation with Ilana Gershon

In this episode, Kelly chats with Ilana Gershon about unemployment and the post-pandemic workplace in the United States’ knowledge economy. Nearly five years after the publication of Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today, Gershon revisits the genesis of that project, reflects on the endurance of the neoliberal conception of the self, and shares that her post-pandemic project points toward a rethinking of the American social contract.

Ilana Gershon is Ruth N. Halls Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University. Her research on neoliberalism and new media has been published in the discipline’s leading journals, including Current Anthropology, American Anthropologist, and American Ethnologist. She is also the author of the three monographs, including most recently, Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today (2017).

Economic Sovereignty, Development, and Community among Indigenous Entrepreneurs: A Conversation with Courtney Lewis

In this episode, Ipshita talks with Dr Courtney Lewis about the ways in which entrepreneurship is conceived and practiced in the Native Nations. Drawing on her ethnographic work with Cherokee small business owners and a recent project with indigenous food entrepreneurs, Courtney discusses the challenges that indigenous entrepreneurs face as well as the ways in which their entrepreneurial labor intersects with ideas of community, economic development, and sovereignty. We also discuss the complexities inherent in working as an ethnographer and particularly, an anthropologist amongst native communities and what are some steps anthropologists can take to establish trust, transparency, and an ethical commitment.

Dr Courtney Lewis is currently an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina – Columbia. A citizen of the Cherokee nation, Dr Lewis’ overall work is in economic development for Native Nations in the United States and, consequently, issues of sovereignty related to economic sustainability and stability. Her research areas include economic anthropology, Indigenous rights, economic justice, political economy, economic sovereignty, public anthropology, food and agricultural sovereignty, Native Nation economic development, American Indian studies, race and entrepreneurship, and economic colonialism. Dr Lewis is the author of ‘Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small-Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty’, published in 2019, which is based on her ethnographic work with indigenous small businesses. In Fall 2022, Dr Lewis is joining the Anthropology faculty at Duke University.

Exploring Social Entrepreneurship Across Geographical Spaces: A Conversation with Walter Little & Lynne Milgram

In this episode, Ipshita talks to Professors Walter Little and Lynne Milgram about their long-term research on social entrepreneurship. Walt’s work with indigenous peoples in Guatemala and Mexico and Lynne’s focus on women workers in Philippines lay the ground for a rich conversation and help rethink the globally standardized ideas on what constitutes social entrepreneurship. We also discuss the links between social entrepreneurship and ‘development’ and explore the ways in which ethnographic work and economic anthropology help scholars transcend static frameworks of analysis and gain a deeper sense of the distinctive needs, motivations and values that peoples and communities bring to entrepreneurial labor.

Walter E. Little is Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany, with a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He studies the social and political economies of Latin American indigenous peoples, particularly in Guatemala, Mexico, and in the Albany, NY region. His multi-sited ethnographic research combines political economy and interpretive perspectives in order to better understand the politics of identity, economic development, cultural heritage and tourism in urban places, and the everyday practices of handicrafts production and marketplace interactions. He is the author of numerous articles, books, and reviews, including Mayas in the Marketplace: Tourism, Globalization, and Cultural Identity (2004), which won Best Book of 2005 from the New England Council for Latin American Studies, and Street Economies in the Urban Global South (2013), coedited with Karen Tranberg Hansen and B. Lynne Milgram, which won the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize. Walt is also the author of Norms and Illegality: Intimate Ethnographies and Politics, co-edited with Cristina Panella (2021).

B. Lynne Milgram is Professor of Anthropology at Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto. Her research on gender and development in the northern Philippines has analyzed the cultural politics of social change with regard to women’s work in microfinance, handicrafts, and in the Philippine-Hong Kong secondhand clothing trade. Milgram’s current SSHRC funded Philippine research investigates transformations of urban public space and issues of informality, extralegality, and social entrepreneurship with regard to street vending, public markets, and food provisioning systems. Additionally drawing on transnational trade network scholarship, recent projects also analyze the northern Philippines’ emergent specialty Arabica coffee industry and artisans’ use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to market their crafts. Milgram has published this research in refereed journal articles and book chapters and in five co-edited volumes, including Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches (2009, with Katherine E. Browne), and Street Economies in the Urban Global South (2013, with Karen Tranberg Hansen and Walter E. Little).