Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: New markets emerge through “marketization,” a particular process of economization, that is, the assembly and qualification of actions, devices and analytical/ practical descriptions as ‘economic’ by social scientists and market actors (Çalışkan and Callon 2010). Emerging markets not only organize the conception of goods and values, arrange different actors with calculative capacities, but also generate a space of interests, conflicts and power struggles.
In this panel, we seek to explore various kinds of marketization in the sense that markets are engineered. In particular, we look at how the engineering of new markets may challenge prior assumptions and conceptions of economic socialities. In thinking through engineering, we attend to the broader processes and heterogeneous works such as designing, experimenting, mobilizing, and cultivating as a way of thinking ethnographically what marketization really is. On the one hand, we think through the making and unmaking of what has been called “orphan groups” (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2008), that is, people whose matter of concern is not or no longer taken into account in the development of markets, such as deaf and hard-of-hearing people who feel excluded from the audio-visual digital economy. The deep uncertainties and exclusion they experience everyday constitute a critical resource for self-investigation and innovation, making visible the limits of current economic, political, and scientific institutions.
On the other hand, we look at how ethics and morality (used interchangeably here) may be engineered as an integral part of engineering markets (Muehlebach 2012, Zhan 2009). Here, by emphasizing engineering, our intention is twofold. First, we want to pay attention to the directionality of ethical transformations in light of newly emergent markets. It can be explored, for example, how entrepreneurial aspirations or monetary incentives gear ethical transformation towards some directions than others, especially in terms of making market(able) subjects. Second, in conversation with the more Foucauldian approach to ethics, where the cultivation of the self is the main site of inquiry (see Lambek 2010), we want to reflect on the efforts of the re-making of the broader ethical ecology. Simply put, ethics engineering here can be thought as the counterpart of the elaboration of the self, that is, the deliberation of what will appear to be the objective good.
Based on ethnographic research, we will explore collectively the various processes of maket engineering. To begin the conversation, we look at practices of venture capital partners in Europe or North America, urban consumers in India or Brazil, and deaf entrepreneurs or eldercare practitioners in China. In doing so, we examine the people, work, ethics, and knowledge that engineer the markets and are at the same time engineered in the process of marketization.