Thursday, August 15, 2019

Human and non-human intermediation in rural agricultural markets

Article in the Journal of Cultural Economy by Elisa Oreglia, King's College, London and Janaki Srinivasan, International Institute of Information Technology 

Drawings courtesy of Krish Raghav (


A central trope of the information society is that of ‘information flows.’ The implicit assumption underlying such a vision involves the removal of gatekeepers and intermediaries who are perceived to impede such flows. Drawing from field research on information circulation, trade, and money in rural markets in Myanmar and India, we show why intermediaries persist alongside information and communication technologies (ICTs) in trade and financial transactions in the ‘Information Age.’ We examine the range of roles, (human and non-human) actors, and material practices that are involved in conducting financial transactions, and we show the importance of historical legacies and politics in explaining why both cash and financial intermediaries persist in the digital age. Focusing on the different value that human and non-human intermediaries bring to financial encounters helps explain what characteristics make each resilient or replaceable in a time of change. By situating intermediaries and mediations in the social relations within which they operate, we bring back the role of power and politics – an element that is often missing in accounts focused on the unmediated and ‘free’ circulation of information using ICTs – in explaining processes of mediation and circulation.

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