W042
Relations that money can buy: negotiating mutualities and asymmetries in local and translocal social fields

Convenors:
Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)
Guido Sprenger (Heidelberg University)
Stream:
Workshops
Location:
345
Start time:
29 August, 2008 at 9:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Money can serve as a way for expressing social asymmetries and dependencies, but also for communicating solidarity or care. It can act as a source of vulnerability, undermining long-term relations between persons, and at the same time it can express trust within a given society.

Long abstract:

Money can be understood as an object, a means of exchange, a commodity, a symbol or a fetish. It can serve as a way for expressing social asymmetries and dependencies, but also for communicating solidarity or care. Money can be a source of vulnerability, undermining long-term relations between persons, and at the same time it can express trust within a given society. In recent decades, the role of money in specific exchange systems has been increasingly discussed. In particular, Bloch and Parry's (1989) distinction of long-term, 'moral' exchange and short-term exchange has been recognised as an important step in understanding the various uses of money. What is less discussed is the risky interface between contrasting ways money is used and interpreted, and its effects on the relations between individuals or groups. How do different local or global conceptions of money clash? How are social relations depending on money conceived and worked out when different parties assign money to diverging values and moralities in the same social moment? Which kinds of moral conundrums arise when the indefinite obligations of close relations are confronted with the definite obligations of monetary economies? These questions for instance can be applied in the context of transnational migrant communities, where dependencies, pressures and moral asymmetries can be articulated by means of money (or the lack of it). Another field is the (comparatively well-funded) anthropologist's desire to express mutuality and equality in relation to people from comparatively poor backgrounds.