Street stalls in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Erin B. Taylor.

Street stalls in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Erin B. Taylor.

The concept of moral economy is a natural fit to analyses of material culture. In this working paper, I show how the concept has applications to all three research projects that I have carried out on the island of Hispaniola since I began conducting fieldwork there in 2004.

In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (2004-2012), I researched the relationship between materiality and poverty in a squatter settlement. There, materiality (particularly the built environment and consumption) are integral to the self-definition of residents people as poor, is implicated in their stigmatization by outsiders, and also provides a way to create a positive community life and transform the future.

In Haiti (2010-2012), primarily in Port-au-Prince, I did collaborative research on the use of mobile phones and financial products. The implications of making communication and cash virtual speak to an anti-materiality that involves removing away the physical constraints and speeding up circulation. On the Dominican-Haitian border (2010-2012), my co-researchers and I looked at how relations between Dominicans and Haitians are defined and practised through material forms. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Walter Benjamin, Warholified by me via www.morphthing.com.

Walter Benjamin, Warholified by me via www.morphthing.com.

In his famous 1936 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin describes how art was historically used for ritual purposes. Because the ritual value of art was tied up with its uniqueness, it was unthinkable to reproduce a work of art.

In some respects, this phenomenon continues to exist today, particularly in religious contexts. Every year, up to a million pilgrims walk to the town of Fátima in Portugal to witness a parade in which the statue of Our Lady of Fátima is displayed. The development of technologies of mechanical reproduction means that it would technically be possible to produce a close copy of this statue, and of course, with photography, millions of images of the Lady circulate around the world freely.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

New article on art markets in Hispaniola

by Erin B Taylor May 12, 2014
A Haitian painting of a marketplace

It’s been many years since I swapped my fine art studies for anthropology and economics, but my interests are now converging. I’ve just published a paper about the trade of paintings in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the journal Visual Studies. My paper, called “Why the cocks trade: what a transnational art market can reveal about cross-border […]

Read the full article →

New chapter on mobile money aesthetics

by Erin B Taylor May 9, 2014
Thumbnail image for New chapter on mobile money aesthetics

Heather Horst and I are happy to announce that our foray into exploring the aesthetics of mobile money is now in print. Published in The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media (edited by Gerard Goggin and Larissa Hjorth), our chapter is called “The Aesthetics of Mobile Money Platforms in Haiti.” We examine the design, aesthetics and use of Digicel’s TchoTcho […]

Read the full article →

Amsterdam: A money laboratory for centuries

by Erin B Taylor March 29, 2014
A bull outside the Amsterdam stock exchange. The statue was originally placed at the other side of the square, but relocated for better photo opportunities. Photo by Erin B. Taylor

Take a walk around Amsterdam’s historic centre. What do you see? Canals, coffee shops, and stalls selling tulip bulbs are some of the typical features promoted to visitors. Beneath this veneer, however, is a rather startling history of financial innovation whose consequences are felt globally. To get closer to this legacy, I took a walking […]

Read the full article →

MoneyLab: Is money the issue?

by Erin B Taylor March 25, 2014
Money makes the world go round. Can non-money achieve the same thing?

The meeting of minds in viva is over. Posters removed, photos posted on Flickr, speakers returned home on multimodal transport. But MoneyLab the project has just begun. The two-day conference was not the cumulation of years of research, but the launch of a new endeavour to network diverse minds to consider “digital experiments with revenue […]

Read the full article →

MoneyLab: Is mobile money an alternative?

by Erin B Taylor March 24, 2014
Cash flies through the air in M-PESA's

The topic of mobile money is a somewhat anachronistic addition to a conference called MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives. In some ways, its inclusion in the conference makes total sense: mobile money is an alternative way to transact, and is providing new options to millions of people around the world who previously had to depend upon informal […]

Read the full article →

MoneyLab: Questioning the monetization of everything

by Erin B Taylor March 22, 2014
The very snazzy MoneyLab poster

The 2007-2008 financial crisis revealed serious fissures in the global financial system. Between housing foreclosures and the failure of large banks, few people seemed to escape its effects. Some people approached this crisis as an opportunity, hoping that it would trigger a serious public conversation about the shape of finance and its effects on human […]

Read the full article →

Mobile money and the social good of financial globalization

by Erin B Taylor March 21, 2014
Map of mobile money services around the world. Image from the GSMA Mobile Money Tracker.

Since Grameen Bank launched the microcredit movement in 1982, the quest for financial inclusion of the world’s poorest people has gained currency. Despite a few scandals, such as the oversupply of credit in places such as Andrah Pradesh, capital has continued to be funneled into microfinance by coalitions of development agencies, philanthropic organizations, and companies. They […]

Read the full article →

What can ethnography contribute to microfinance research?

by Erin B Taylor March 9, 2014
Thumbnail image for What can ethnography contribute to microfinance research?

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about the difficulties involved in understanding microfinance customers and tailoring products to their needs. Microfinance experts across the industry have identified the need to understand microfinance customers better in order to meet the “double bottom line“; that is, provide a financial return as well as creating a positive social […]

Read the full article →