Political Economy

Adam Leaver and Keir Martin

We live in tumultuous times. In the corporate sphere, multiple scandals before and after the 2008 crisis raise serious concerns about the culture of financialized practice within our managerial class and the influence of finance more broadly over our political class. Moral questions also arise from large multinationals minimal tax contributions and use of zero hour employment contracts, leaving some to fear that big business has little investment in maintaining the quality of life expected by local populations. With the rise of Trumpism in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK, we are perhaps seeing some of this fallout through the fragmentation of voting affiliations and the rise of right wing populism across the UK, US and mainland Europe.

What is notable is just how poor politicians, academic experts, policy makers etc have been at predicting such large societal and economic moves. Famously, economists were asked by the Queen why no one saw the financial crisis coming; similarly few pundits expected a Brexit vote even as the votes began to roll in. In short, there is a disconnect between the beliefs, attitudes etc. of people on the ground, and what we might claim to think we know about them as theorists. The time for new theorisations of recent events could not be more pressing.

This stream aims to make connections between these broader social and political shifts and the more grounded observational work of ethnographers. Ethnographic work based on anthropological methods has a strong record of addressing these issues in recent years. For example, in contrast to the economists’ failure to predict the crash of 2008, it was the anthropologist-turned financial journalist Gillian Tett who was the sole financial journalist of note to predict the crisis, and her insights into the short-term culture of financial markets have been complemented by other ethnographies of the sector over the past few years, (e.g. Ho 2009, Zaloom 2006). Likewise the disconnect of working-class communities from the centrist political establishment in the UK has been well documented by ethnographers in recent years (e.g. Smith 2012).. This stream encourages pluralist, interdisciplinary work at the intersect of ethnography and political economy and seeks submissions that connect field-based observations to these broader political economy themes.

Please send paper abstracts of not more than 1,000 words to both stream convenors as email attachments by Tuesday 28th February 2017. Submissions from PhD students as well as academics at any stage of their careers are equally welcome:

Keir Martin: k.j.c.martin@sai.uio.no



Ho, K. (2009). Liquidated: an ethnography of Wall Street. Duke University Press.

Zaloom, C. (2006). Out of the pits: Traders and technology from Chicago to London. University of Chicago Press.

Smith, K. (2012). Fairness, Class and Belonging in Contemporary England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan