Marketography - Ethnographies of Markets

Daniel Neyland and Vera Ehrenstein

The first two decades of the 21st Century have seen an explosion in ethnographic studies of markets. Drawing inspiration from Callon’s (1998) call for an up-close engagement with the laws of markets, we have seen studies of financial innovations (Lepinay, 2011), pricing practices (Muniesa 2007), trading algorithms (MacKenzie, 2014), and the exchange of globalized goods (Caliskan, 2010). New empirical focal points continue to emerge with market ethnographies now moving beyond financial settings or the work of economists, to study, for example, market based interventions designed to solve public problems (Neyland, Ehrenstein and Milyaeva, 2014) or collective concerns (Frankel, Ossandon and Pallesen, 2016). These studies have drawn in a range of theoretical approaches to reconsider and reconfigure how markets are made. Hence, markets as heterogeneous agencements (Caliskan and Callon, 2010), the performativity of economics (MacKenzie, Muniesa and Siu, 2007), and the economic as provocation (Muniesa, 2014), amongst many other approaches, come to provide a means through which ethnographic studies of markets can raise new questions, address contemporary concerns of market and financial matters and continue to provide a rich seam of challenging ideas.

A key point of reflection in these studies is how economists and market participants frame markets and forms of economic exchange. However, far less attention has been paid to the ways in which market ethnographers’ work plays a part in framing, performing or shaping how we come to know and talk about markets. This session will explore examples of ethnographic engagement with specific markets. It will ask: through market ethnographies are we seeing an emerging marketography – a regularly employed series of sensibilities to be fluidly engaged in studying market matters? If so, what would be the benefits of marketography – recognition for an emerging and developing field, opportunities for community and capacity building, the establishment of journals and regular meetings, a smooth passage for new entrants into the field? And what might be the downside of greater recognition – will early, provocative and challenging studies fade into repetitive routine, will radicalism make way for lazy appropriation, a crowd of followers seeking the latest trend? How could an emerging marketography hold open prospects for a continual stream of radical, new provocations while at the same time becoming a recognised practice?

This stream will take on these questions and more through a series of presentations and provocations. Invitees will include: Fabian Muniesa, CF Helgesson. Together these papers will enable us to make sense of what makes markets a specific, problematic and contentious object of ethnography.

Please submit a 500 word abstract or proposal by Tuesday 28th February 2017.