Crisis is often linked to reductions in circulation of one sort or another. Economic crisis, such as the GFC, involves the slowing down of circulation of monetary value. Political crises, such as the recent shutdown of the US congress, see procedures of governance and statehood come to a halt. And human crises often prompt changes in circulation, such as displacement due to a natural disaster, or long stays in refugee camps.
What do murder, microfinance, and black markets in reptiles have in common? They all featured as part of a panel called "Circulation in Times of Crisis" at the Australian Anthropology Society conference in Canberra from the 5th to 8th November. Convened by Heather Horst and Marta Rosales, this panel explored the relationships between flows and blockages of people, things, information, and media.
Maria crossed the border into the Dominican Republic in 1979. Tired of searching endlessly for work in her home town of Thiotte, Haiti, she settled in Aguas Negras permanently to work illegally in the local coffee industry.
Her daughter, Fredelina, was born two years later in a tiny house made of sticks and mud. Although both her mother and her father were illegal immigrants, Fredelina was automatically entitled to citizenship under the Dominican constitution.
What is mobile money as an object of research? And how do we best design research programs and methodologies for it? These were the topics of a paper that Heather Horst and myself presented at the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference in London.
Designing mobile money research is complex because mobile money is itself complex. Simultaneously a commodity and a social good, mobile money is applicable to a broad range of uses and users. It incorporates the qualities of money, as a store of value, medium of exchange, and unit of account.
And because mobile money depends upon mobile technology, it cannot be readily separated from practices of communication, at least insofar as we want to understand how users incorporate it into their everyday lives. Mobile money therefore lends itself readily to both quantitative and qualitative analysis.
Read the rest of this post on the IMTFI Blog.