Panel 24

The Social Life of Finance: exploring the interactive dynamics between Financial Capital and Society (GRAF – Gruppo di Ricerca di Antropologia della Finanza) 

Panel 24 / Quarto Convegno Nazionale SIAC “Il ritorno del sociale”, Sapienza Università di Roma, 21-22-23 settembre 2023

Proponenti: Camilla Carabini (Università di Milano – Bicocca), Zaira T. Lofranco (Università di Bologna)

Discussant: Francesco Zanotelli (Università di Messina)


The 2008 Global Financial Crisis provided evidence of the embeddedness of financial markets and social dynamics beyond the anthropological debate. However, in the relentless march of financialization, the extractive practices have been regenerated by shaping and adapting to new social categories and values, among them the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) being the most popular. This panel aims to investigate ethnographically the interactive dynamics between financial capital and society, the social actors and contexts at play between the occult mechanisms of financial technologies and the observable hierarchical effects they engender in different contexts. Thus, the panel analyzes how financial culture has pervaded every social stratum and how this phenomenon has impacted daily life, education, language, urban development, and social policy. Moreover, it intends to explore the intricate social complexity of financialization through its entanglements with digital infrastructures, urban architectures, natural and contaminating resources, and organizational structures of enterprises. In addition, it explores the resistance, rejections, and emergence of alternative truth regimes to the culture of indebtedness. Lastly, it will reflect on the role of technology (algorithms, big data, artificial intelligence, personal rating scales) in classifying financial individuals and groups as well as the emergence of new communities around cryptocurrencies.

Keywords: finance, social relations, debt, technology, cryptocurrencies

Lingue accettate: Italiano / English


Sessione I

Venerdì 22/9/2023, ore 16.45-18.30, aula Nuova Buonaiuti, Terzo piano

Zaira T. Lofranco ( (Università di Bologna); Camilla Carabini ( (Università di Milano Bicocca), Introduzione

Camilla Carabini ( (Università di Milano Bicocca), “If Bolt’s Money isn’t safe then whose is?” Uncertain money in uncertain times in Jamaica

The significant disruptions witnessed in monetary systems worldwide, have led central banks to explore the development of CBDCs to safeguard monetary sovereignty and ensure their role in the digital arena (Ortiz, 2021). However, the implementation of CBDCs faces challenges, particularly in Jamaica. Monetary uncertainty is built upon many other layers, among which is the lack of trust in the banking system. A recent Usain Bolt scandal further highlights the risks associated with financial transactions in Jamaica. At the same time, scamming is allowing the most impoverished Jamaicans to achieve a sense of worth given its constant erosion by neo-liberalism in the present, and by colonialism in the past (Lewis, 2020). While money as a means of commensuration is shaped by social and historical factors (Graber 2011, Guyer 2004), it is not necessarily rational, and contradiction inevitably reappears at the heart of monetary systems as it does in Caribbean culture. Frictions in the notions of “chaos” (Benítez Rojo 1996) and “tragedy” (Scott 2014) help explain the fluidity and constant change of Caribbean identities, structures, and boundaries. Irrationality though can be a tool of resilience to find new and revolutionary ways to enchant the world.

Joy Malala ( (University of Warwick), Reordering Monetary Ontologies: How (Digital) Credit is (Mis)Saping a Nation

This paper seeks to investigate the socio-technical relations within the Kenyan digital credit market. Digital finance comprises a vast array of diverse financial and monetary ecologies, including mobile payments and credit in Kenya. Like payday lenders, digital lenders offer unsecured short-term credit products. Consequently, the digital credit market has spawned a collection of actors who compete with other digital credit providers and the broader consumer credit market, thereby producing a digital subprime. This market consists of data aggregators who collect valuable data used to determine the creditworthiness of its users. These users have high rates of unemployment and precarity, in addition to the cultural phenomenon of dependent and familial support from financially secure family members or Black tax. To withdraw from such obligations necessitates undermining social obligations and expectations ignoring the social character of money. In Kenya, efforts to intervene in this market have thus far been concentrated on the supply side as opposed to the entire ecosystem created. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the digital subprime market. It intends to accomplish this by analytically theorising the directional flows of money and resources through these platforms, which have resulted in a creditor advantage. It intends to examine the possibility of striking a compromise between enforcing contractual obligations in credit agreements and protecting vulnerable users.

Alessandro Viscomi ( (Sapienza Università di Roma), Movimenti finanziari, mutamenti esistenziali

Negli ultimi vent’anni hanno proliferato gli studi socio-culturali sul tema della finanza e della finanziarizzazione a partire da contesti disciplinari differenti (Hart, 2020; Kalb 2020). Dalle riflessioni sulla crisi dei mutui subprime del 2008 (Christopher, 2011; Graeber, 2011) e da lavori etnografici sulla città e il suo indissolubile legame con la finanza (Mattioli, 2020; Sassen 2018; Lo Franco & Zantoelli 2022), sì è gettata luce sugli effetti materiali della finanziarizzazione nella vita quotidiana degli attori sociali che subiscono, resistono o agiscono la sua potenza generativa. Non sono mancati tentativi di esplorare dall’interno contesti più puramente economici come le banche (Ho, 2009) o le imprese (D’Aloiso & Ghezzi, 2016; Ghezzi, 2007; Mattioli, 2020; Redini et al. 2020) che hanno mostrato di volta in volta differenti dinamiche di sfruttamento e marginalizzazione che i macro processi finanziari innescano a catena nelle micro dinamiche quotidiane dei lavoratori. In questo quadro una ricerca etnografica in una media impresa del settore dell’agricoltura mostra come le scelte di grandi proprietari, manager, banche e fondi di investimento, possano minacciare la serenità dei lavoratori e mettere in crisi i loro progetti di vita, in un panorama di instabilità e incertezza in cui la speculazione sulla compravendita di piccole e medie aziende da parte di grandi multinazionali passa per tagli e disinvestimenti che condizionano negativamente la natura delle organizzazioni.

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