Hidden gems: 10 groundbreaking books that uncover the human faces of economics

August 10th 2017

Central banks, economic theory, and financial behavior are not topics that we normally associate with anthropology. Of course, many of you will have read best-sellers like David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Gillian Tett’s Fool’s Gold. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, more anthropologists putting a human face to current economic and financial issues.

Here are ten of the most innovative ones.

How to ask research participants about money

July 22nd 2017

On 1 June, 2012, I arrived at the British Museum to attend the opening of its newly renovated Citi Money Gallery. This was an exciting moment for me: inside was a display of money-related objects and images from Haiti that I collected with Heather Horst and Espelencia Baptiste for a research project. I couldn’t wait to see how our coins, phones, cards, and underwear with secret pockets for hiding cash would look inside this venerated institution. 

It was a huge success. People were spending far more time in the new gallery, lingering over the displays. Why, all of a sudden, was money so much more gripping?

The answer, said curator Katie Eagleton, was the social aspect. Whereas traditional money galleries usually focus on coins, promissory notes, and other traditional forms of money, the new gallery includes a range of displays that focus on the social history and current practices of money. Not just for coin-collecting enthusiasts, the money gallery had something of interest for everybody.

By putting money-related objects in social context, the Citi Money Gallery challenges many of our assumptions about how people relate to money. Our approaches to researching money and finance need to change as well. What can we learn from ethnography

Introducing the Consumer Finance Research Methods Toolkit

April 20th 2016

Gawain Lynch and I are happy to announce that the CFRM Toolkit is now available. The Toolkit is the final product of our Consumer Finance Research Methods Project, which produced a paper and several blog posts to assist researchers in adapting to changing conditions in consumer finance globally and to better understand the consumers of financial products.

Caribbean Fantasy: A documentary set in Santo Domingo's barrios

April 1st 2016

I'm always interested in new accounts of life in Santo Domingo's barrios. Having done research there for more than a decade, I like to retain a sense of place: what's changed, what's stayed the same.

Johanné Gómez Terrero's new documentary, Caribbean Fantasy, reminds me that even though the quality of life in the poverty-stricken regions of Santo Domingo is improving, for many people living there life remains hard, and problems insurmountable.