Call for Abstracts Financialization and Beyond: Debt, Money, Wealth, and the Capture of Value

October 5, 2016

Call for Abstracts

Financialization and Beyond: Debt, Money, Wealth, and the Capture of Value

April 6-8, 2017, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA.  Abstracts due December 1, 2016.

Finance is hard to escape. In recent years, the increasing social impact and interconnection of financial discourses, markets, actors, and institutions have been understood under the broad concept of financialization. Natascha van der Zwan identifies three distinct research streams that have approached financialization as 1) a regime of accumulation, 2) the influence of financial markets and instruments on non-financial corporations as well as the banking and finance industry, and 3) a discourse of risk-taking, self-management and self-fulfillment that is transforming people into investing subjects. Some anthropological skeptics, however, argue that finance has a far longer genealogy than the financialization literature has to date recognized. For example, in the context of a lengthy human history of creating hierarchy, financialization may simply be a new technology serving an old purpose.

On behalf of the Society for Economic Anthropology, and in co-sponsorship with the International Sociological Association’s Economy and Society Research Committee, we aim to put in dialogue divergent visions of what constitutes finance and financialization, and how finance and financialization impact our societies. The program committee especially welcomes scholarship from anthropologists (in all sub-fields), sociologists, scholars in the social studies of finance, and other social scientists who do not necessarily self-identify as financialization scholars, but whose work provides comparative, historical, ethnographic, or quantitative insights into the workings of finance and financialization.

As an initial organizing tool we have divided areas of potential contributions into three categories of inquiry. These are not exclusive categories and we welcome contributions that don’t readily fit in what we outline.


  • Finance predates capitalism. Therefore, what are relevant cross-cultural, historical, and archaeological cases which help illuminate our current moment?
  • Tracing who owes what to whom is as old as the discipline of anthropology. Do new financial instruments such as credit default swaps share forms and logics with older kinds of reciprocities?
  • Are the new instruments of finance comparable to those found in the cultural and archaeological record, and especially to other forms of debt?
  • Numerous scholars have argued that financialization is creating new subjects and selfhoods, accompanied by a shift of risk from states to households. What are the material objects, spaces, and infrastructures that translate financial abstraction into new ways of understanding personhood?

Wealth, Money, and Financial Instruments

  • Does financialization alter our comprehension of what kind of social organization goes with what type of wealth—a leitmotif in the comparative study of human societies, particularly since the rise of agriculture?
  • How can we interpret potentially novel forms of financial innovation, such as Islamic finance and banking?
  • How do ideologies such as shareholder value or social finance transform economic practices?
  • How do non-elites use new forms of money (such as phone cards, paypal, gift cards, local currencies) to alter hierarchies or seek alternative forms of wealth accumulation? How and with what consequences are elites transforming money’s materiality?

Depoliticization and the Capture of Value

  • Many have noted that financialization promotes a depoliticizing process, in which state services, formerly held accountable to government, are now being replaced by private markets. How do these processes compare to other instances of political drift and shift that have come with new modes of abstraction?
  • How is finance racializing and gendering?Where can we observe moments of openness, where finance can be emancipatory?
  • What kind of ethics, politics, and social goals do financial elites envision? How do these compare to those brought into being by classes that dominate the wealth and financial systems in different cultural or economic contexts? What new forms of informality are promoted by financialization?
  • The supply chains of financial products connect different places and political projects across the globe. How do such financial instruments transform social life?


We request abstracts for both papers and posters on these topics. Please indicate whether your abstract is for a paper, a poster or either. Proposed papers must pertain to the meeting theme. SEA also welcomes poster abstracts on any aspect of economic anthropology.

Publishing Opportunity

The Society for Economic Anthropology publishes Economic Anthropology, a peer reviewed journal published electronically via the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Each year Economic Anthropology dedicates one of its two issues to the theme of the SEA meeting. A special issue on financialization will be developed from select conference presentations.


Fabio Mattioli, New York University,
Aaron Z. Pitluck, Illinois State University,
Daniel Souleles, Brandeis University,

How to submit an abstract

Abstract deadline is December 1, 2016.

Abstracts of proposed papers and posters should be no more than 500 words. Abstracts are advised to include the following information: problem statement or theoretical frame, methodology, findings, and implications. If you submit a paper abstract, please indicate your willingness to present a poster if the organizers are unable to accommodate your paper in the plenary sessions. Poster sessions at SEA are taken very seriously, and most conference participants attend these sessions. In order to be considered for inclusion in the journal issue tied to this theme, please plan to have a complete, publishable-quality version of your paper ready at the time of the conference. Additional information for potential authors will follow.

To submit an abstract, you must first register for the conference through the AAA. At the moment, the registration site is not yet available on the AAA web site. SEA is working with AAA to get the registration site up; this will occur shortly.

  1.  Go to americananthro.organd log in.  If you don’t have a login id and password, create one (you do not need to join the American Anthropological Association).
  2.  Once you are logged in, look to the left hand column, click on Meeting registration.
  3.  Click on register under the SEA 2017 Annual Meeting then follow online prompts to register for the meeting (if we do not accept your abstract and you decide not to attend, you may request that your registration fee be refunded and we would be happy to do so).
  4.  Once you are registered, AAA will automatically send you an email inviting you to submit an abstract.  Click the link and follow the instructions.

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