Erin B. Taylor

Talking about mobile money at the MoneyLab conference at the Institute for Network Cultures in March 2014.Ph.D. (Anthropology) University of Sydney
Postdoctoral Research Fellow at ICS-UL, Lisbon

Researcher at the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion
Research Associate at Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT, Melbourne
Managing Editor at PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity
Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Cultural Economy
M
ember of the Steering Committee for Charisma: Consumer Market Studies

I am an economic anthropologist with an aesthetic sensibility. My main areas of interest are consumer finance, use of technology, material culture, socio-economic development, and public communication. I’m Australian, I also hold a British passport, and I speak fluent English and Spanish, conversational Portuguese, and a smattering of French and Haitian Creole.

My current research involves trying to identify ways that people working in different areas of consumer finance can share knowledge to improve our research. This involves talking with people from different academic disciplines, the banking sector, NGOs, consultants, and marketing companies, to name but a few. It helps to satisfy my passion for finding ways to communicate across different types of audiences. You can read more on the IMTFI website.

As an undergraduate I took courses in anthropology, biology, economics, fine art, linguistics, psychology, sociology, Spanish, and statistics. After a week of taking a course in anthropology, I knew without a doubt that I would go on to pursue a PhD in the area.

In 2003, after a stint of working in the UK, I enrolled in a PhD at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Professor Diane Austin-Broos. As an undergraduate I had spent three months in Chile, so I decided to head to a Spanish-speaking country in order to put my language skills to use. For fifteen months I lived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, spending most of my time living in a squatter settlement.

This research resulted in a book, Materializing Poverty: How the Poor Transform their Lives (2013, AltaMira), which explores how squatter settlement residents use their material environment to change their social and economic lives. I am also the editor of Fieldwork Identities in the Caribbean (2010, Caribbean Studies Press).

From 2008-2010 I lectured full-time in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Sydney, Australia, directing the Global Studies degree and teaching Anthropology Honours, Reading Ethnography, Economic Anthropology, Urban Anthropology, and Introductory Anthropology.

From 2010-2012 I worked with with Dr. Heather Horst and Dr. Espelencia Baptiste on a project called Mobiles, Migrants and Money: A Study of Mobility in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, funded by the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) at the University of California, Irvine. Our mission was to find out how Haitians were using both formal and informal financial services, then investigate the adoption of the new mobile money services introduced after the earthquake. We produced two major reports detailing Haiti’s financial ecology and money practices.

An exciting outcome of the research was our surprise collaboration with the British Museum. We collected money-related objects from Haiti, which were displayed in the Museum’s Citi Money Gallery when it was re-launched in 2012. One of our artefacts was even featured on the Museum’s giant posters in the London Underground.

In July 2011 I took up the position of postdoctoral research fellow at the Instituto de Ciências Sociais at the Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. This research-only position saw me returning to the field, this time to the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with Gawain Lynch and Heather Horst, in 2012. We looked into material and cultural differences between the towns on either side of the border and how locals used mobile phones to mitigate, or take advantage of, some of these differences. We’re now writing up the final publications from this project, while working on our new project on consumer finance.

I’m a strong believer in public communication. Noting a lack of publishing platforms for anthropology, Gawain Lynch, John McCreery and I launched  PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity in September 2012. Since then, the site has attracted well over a quarter of a million visitors. One of our main objectives is pedagogical. We provide editorial guidance to anyone who wishes to write popular anthropological articles. We also promote popular anthropology generally through our use of social media.