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Social values and cocoa pods

What if an entire economic sector tried to improve the dignity or defend the rights of farmers, instead of maximising profits or monetary rewards?

Category: Fairtrade, Ghana, Guest Post, cocoa beans, consumption

Some extensions of Ambiguous Goods

The first quarter of 2014 has seen two articles finally nearing the end of the publishing queue and two more out for revision - as well as all the usual job applications. Admittedly not much has been happening on the blog, but behind the scenes I'm certainly keeping busy. I'll be giving some further updates about the other material, but today I'm going to think through how the writing I did about ambiguous goods and categories of people and things in the virtual world Final Fantasy XI extends into my current project on affluent migrants and grocery shopping in Moscow, Russia.

I've written before about the ambiguous goods paper. You can read it either in early view on the Journal of Consumer Behaviour's website or check it out on my Academia.edu page. Looking back at this article, I'm happy with how it takes apart the somewhat ambiguous idea of ambiguous goods and starts to build a theoretical toolkit for how we might conceptualise and use this concept. In my research with Western grocery shoppers and their adventures in Russian shops there certainly are a large number of ambiguous goods - things that evade classification or are subject to duelling classifications.

Category: ambiguous goods, research, Journal of Consumer Behavior, publications, grocery shopping

A Workshop!

Inspired by advertisements on the Moscow Metro whose general theme was a denial of any global financial crisis, a few months ago I met with colleagues Chris Swader and John Round here at the Higher School of Economics to talk about our common interests in contemporary Russian urban economic life. With our different specialisations, we had quite a bit to talk about. At the time I had put in a proposal for a special issue to the Journal of Consumer Culture and had been politely asked to join up with some colleagues with more editorial experience. Chris and John were enthusiastic, so we began talking about a workshop that could lay the groundwork for a potential special issue. After much discussion, funding research and budget planning, we came up with some good angles. The call for papers is now available and I've set up a provisional page with information about the workshop here on Everyday Economies. The workshop will be in October, and as the date grows closer there will be more information about logistics, invitations, visas and places to stay.

Category: Higher School of Economics, HSE, workshop, call for papers, consumption

Some thoughts on Wozzeck, money and moralities

Much scholarly ink has been spilled about Berg's masterwork, Wozzeck, though most of it is about the work's contribution to atonal music (including debates about whether it should be so classified) and the development of modern opera. Ostensibly, Wozzeck is about a man who dies after killing his wife - not an unusual story in patriarchal societies, and certainly not so uncommon in tragic opera or theatre. That one sentence summary left out a few details: Wozzeck drowns while disposing of the murder weapon - a knife - and in the Covent Garden production, the singer is submerged in a tank of water for much of the last act; Marie was his common-law spouse; and nearly every character in the opera seems morally bankrupt. The opera consists of three acts with five scenes each but is not nearly as long as that description suggests, with an approximate running time of just over ninety minutes. Though Wozzeck is historically and artistically important, the opera also deserves consideration for its powerful critique of poverty, bourgeois moralities and inequality.

Category: Money Monday, opera, Wozzeck, moralities, discrimination

Bonn Digital Culture Conference

In early October I gave a paper at the Digital Culture - Promises and Discomforts workshop in Bonn. The paper was about transhumanists in Second Life, using some serendipitously generated data from seven interviews. Transhumanism isn't necessarily in my area, but the discussions were really quite fascinating. There aren't many academics writing specifically about transhumanists who aren't actually transhumanists themselves - except a few scholars of religion - so this odd set of conversations seemed like a good topic to write about. The presentation went well - or so it seemed to me - and the paper was well-received. I ran out of paper copies, and had brought quite a few, so that's maybe a good sign. (There may also be a research article worth writing about giving away papers at conferences, and the obligation to accept or to ask for them, but that's a topic for another day.)

Here is the abstract.

Category: transhumanism, Second Life, virtual worlds, digital cultures

Money Multiplicity Workshop

At the end of this month I'll be giving a paper at a workshop in Frankfurt called Taking materiality of money’s multiplicity seriously, which has been organised by the Value and Equivalence research group at Goethe University. The paper builds on some ideas explored previously in Money Monday posts. This is part of a new research project about monies and materialities. For now the interviews have been with expatriates in Moscow, but in the new year I'll begin interviewing Moscovites as well.

Category: conferences, Russian rubles, conversions, papers, materialities

Virtual Money and Moralities

I've had a paper accepted in Distinktion about virtual monies and moral boundary drawing. Economic sociology generally avoids questions or morals and moralities - though anthropologists and historians deal with such issues under the rubric of 'moral economies'. Yet in my doctoral fieldwork (and going forward), moralities have played a very significant role in respondents' accounts of economic lives and how economies work. This is especially true with respect to money. 'Good' and 'rational' money management - as defined by a particular middle class sensibility emphasising savings, investments and debt only for purchasing durable, appreciating assets like property - are framed as a matter of morals more so than opportunities and knowledge. Such ideas circulate widely, but are especially vicious in Britain's public sphere. When Jamie Oliver criticised the 'massive fucking TVs' and poor eating of impoverished people in Britain he rightly lambasted for showing a staggering lack of empathy and understanding about poverty. But his remarks are not only a commentary on class in Britain, or a critique of sedentary lifestyles, or poor nutritional choices. They spring from a classist and moralising critique of money use. This juxtaposition of luxury goods -- big televisions -- with cheap calories -- chips and cheese -- is part of a very old story story indeed about privileged people making judgements about how poorer people use their money.

Category: virtual worlds, monies, moralities, virtual monies, publications

Digital Discrimination and Social Networks International Conference

I'm a regular reader of the Hope not Hate blog, which featured a round up of extremist and facist political party conventions a short while ago. Apparently Britain leads the world in fascist parties - a depressing idea whose factual veracity I've not investigated - according to that map that was making the rounds of the internet last week. So when this call for papers about racism and discrimination online came in, it felt timely. There are ongoing debates around young people and cyberbullying and about extremism online, but this conference will be bringing together a range of topics, including everyday digital racisms (under 'stereotypes and online media').

Category: call for papers, virtual worlds, discrimination, racism, social networking sites

Old and New Money

As part of the research project on monies and materialities, I've been talking with people about Russian rubles, and monies more generally. Some of the discussions about rubles have been quite fascinating, especially when people talk about their first impressions of ruble banknotes and coins. The ruble is an old money, and a new money at the same time. There have been rubles in Russia for at least 300 years, so the name is old. But the current ruble has only been around since 1998. Ruble banknotes seemed a bit peculiar when I first saw them, but it was hard to describe exactly what looked odd about them. One interviewee, Simon, exactly described this very impression. He said rubles look like old money and new money at the same time. He suggested the engraving on the 5,000 ruble bill makes it look old-fashioned, as though it were money from the 1970s or 1960s. After hearing Simon's reflections, I realised that the 5,000 ruble note reminded me of an old Canadian $2 bill. Both banknotes have an elaborate style of engraving, and feature landscapes as symbols of nationhood. They're both on the red end of the colour spectrum too.

Category: Money Monday, Russia, Russian rubles, denominations, materialities

Update

Summer is now over, autumn is well-advanced and winter is coming, or so I've been told. I've been busy with conference papers, fieldwork and journal articles. I've recently begun a new project - that makes three on the go - and am putting together some materials for two grant applications, one in January and another in February. This autumn I've written two conference papers, one of which has already been delivered, but more on those in a later blog post. The two papers I had under review have both been accepted. I've already written about the one at the Journal of Consumer Behavior, but it certainly feels more real now that the proofs have been corrected. The other paper will be in Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory. It suffices to say for now that on the writing front, things have been busy.

Category: news, research, conferences, fieldwork, academic writing

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