Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores the history of Berlin’s Water Works from the perspective of late 19th and late 20th century private contracts. How did these contracts function as vehicles for high-yielding profits for foreign investors while also, across a period of about 150 years, becoming objects of subterfuge, suspicion, rumor, wonder, and political intrigue? I present a history and theory of the financial frontier as a zone of contractual opacity and secrecy, but also as a zone where the revelation of these contract’s and their open secrets had unprecedented public political effects. At stake is the question of who makes the law – markets or states?