Taking the money to the Bank$y. Photo by John Guano.

People working in consumer finance who want to share perspectives across different sectors and disciplines face a communication problem: finding a shared language to talk about people and trying to understand their lives. The bad news is that “thought silos” persist and block possibilities for valuable collaborations. The good news is that a great deal of collaborative work is already underway that demonstrates the value of getting past the silos.

A major obstacle to knowledge sharing is that the language that different sectors of consumer finance use lends the impression that we are trying to achieve different ends. Commercial businesses, such as banks, tend to refer to people as “consumers.” Governments have “citizens.” Product developers and designers more commonly refer to people as “users.” Microfinance has “clients,” and academic researchers usually have “subjects” or perhaps “participants.”

Of course, it makes sense that we use different terms to refer to the people we work with, because we do have specific aims and goals. Selling someone a credit product is clearly not the same thing as running a financial literacy project; launching a mobile money service seems miles away from running a lab experiment on, say, risk-taking behavior.

However, our language differences obscure the fact that we are often trying to answer the same basic question: what drives people to make financial decisions for themselves and their households?

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Post image for Launching new project on global consumer finance research

Gawain Lynch and I are happy to announce that we have just begun a new project with the IMTFI on global research in consumer finance.

Over the next eight months we will be surveying research in consumer finance globally to understand how changes in consumer finance globally are affecting consumers, and how researchers are adapting to understand consumers as they grapple with these changes.

We will be looking into research innovations in all kinds of areas — commercial operations, NGOs, government, and academia. While these sectors often have very different problems to solve, and serve distinct groups of people, they often face similar problems in understanding people’s financial behaviours. Product proliferation, changing regulatory environments, and shifting national borders are among the factors that each sector needs to take into account, even when they are attempting to understand a specific local population.

Researchers across all of these sectors are responding to global changes by innovating their approaches to understanding consumers. We stand to learn a lot from each other, but few of us have the time to look into what people in other sectors of consumer finance are doing. This project aims to bridge the knowledge gap, creating outputs that all consumer finance researchers can use. [click to continue…]

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Mobilizing concepts across disciplines: An economic analysis

by Erin B Taylor December 8, 2014
Boats being loaded with goods in Anse-à-Pitres before they sail to Marigot. Photo by Erin B. Taylor

There are many lenses through which we can think about mobility. There is no one correct lens to use; in fact, adopting different lenses at different moments can help us spot things that we may have otherwise missed. Many anthropologists do fieldwork in places where we are strangers. One one of the major advantages of […]

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Free compilation of popular anthropology

by Erin B Taylor November 24, 2014
Showcasing Popular Anthropology cover. Art by Tyler Spangler

Want to read popular anthropology but don’t know where to start? A few of us fans got together and compiled a booklet of short articles by anthropologists from around the world. Showcasing Popular Anthropology includes contributions from Sarah Kenzidor, Joris Luyendijk, Keith Hart, Dori Tunstall, Susan Blum, Helen Fisher, Vito Laterza, Olimide Abimbola, Agustín Fuentes, […]

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New PopAnth launched!

by Erin B Taylor November 19, 2014
The newly renovated PopAnth, 17 November 2014

On behalf of PopAnth’s editorial team, I am pleased to announce that today we launched a new version of PopAnth – Hot Buttered Humanity! The new version is cleaner, prettier, and completely mobile device compatible. Overall, though, we’ve retained the look, feel and features of the original site. Gawain Lynch worked on the design with […]

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Safety in numbers: Squatting as social and financial security

by Erin B Taylor October 23, 2014
La Ciénaga, one of the poorest of Santo Domingo’s barrios. Photo by Erin B. Taylor.

Squatter settlements around the world are not generally considered to bestow financial or social security upon the people who live in them. Rather, they tend to be portrayed in two ways. First, they are often described as places that trap people in poverty. The rationale is that lack of access to capital – economic, social, […]

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30% off Materializing Poverty

by Erin B Taylor September 26, 2014

Rollup, rollup! AltaMira have just sent me discount flyers for my book. If you were considering buying it but were holding off because of the price, now’s the time to make your move. There’s a USA flyer and an international flyer for people living everywhere else. Materializing Poverty discount flyer – international Materializing Poverty discount […]

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The moral economies of material things

by Erin B Taylor May 24, 2014
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 […]

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The curation of the self in the age of the Internet

by Erin B Taylor May 16, 2014
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 […]

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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 […]

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