Wednesday, July 31, 2019

‘Its gait is too brisk:’ money mobility in Karachi’s foreign exchange market

by Noman Baig, Habib University and IMTFI Fellow in the Journal of Cultural Economy


The global spread of finance capitalism has ushered in a speculative nature of currency trade and has given rise to new forms of subjectivity. Narrowing the ethnographic gaze on a thirty-seven year old currency trader in Karachi, this paper advances two arguments. The first argument relates to the materiality of foreign exchange and their effects on traders’ bodies. In spot trading, the currency traders experience foreign currency as an affective quality breathing down heavily on the senses. The second argument points to an interconnected nature of foreign exchange markets. Using Knorr Cetina and Breugger's notion of ‘global microstructures,’ I demonstrate the ways in which a currency trader, operating in a post-9/11 counter-terrorist surveillance milieu in the country, negotiates the micro and global scales of economy. Grounded in ethnographic research in Pakistan, this paper explores the ways in which foreign currency, especially of the metropole, is circulated, exchanged, and imagined in a postcolonial context, and hence contributes to an emerging scholarship of anthropology of money and finance.

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