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Financializing Infrastructures

stock market data screen

This working group explores intersections between the emerging literatures in: 1) infrastructure studies, and 2) financialization.

The ‘infrastructure turn’ in the social sciences and humanities has called attention to the material substrata through which goods, knowledge, people and capital circulate, exploring the “complex assemblages that bring all manner of human, nonhuman, and natural agents into a multitude of continuous liaisons across geographic space” (Graham 2010: 11). Adopting a new materialist perspective, the literature investigates how infrastructures embody ‘congealed social interests,’ as political agendas become buried in the built environment.    

The turn towards infrastructure has been paralleled by a shift towards studies of finance and financial instruments. Since the 2008 crisis, a growing literature has highlighted “the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy and its governing institutions, both at the national and international levels” (Epstein 2001: 1). Indeed, the financialization of everyday life is often touched upon in the literature, as financial technologies have facilitated new forms of speculation in areas of life that were previously considered outside the scope of the market.    

Drawing these two literatures together, this working group explores what it means for the material substrata of modern life to be increasingly financialized.   


Co-Directors

  • Orit Halpern, Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University
  • Chris Hurl, Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University

Key Questions

  • How do infrastructures and finance intersect in the contemporary period?    
  • What kinds of technologies and professional expertise are taken up in transforming things into objects of financial speculation?
  • What actors have come to play key roles in the financialization process, and how are they coordinated?
  • How are infrastructures imagined under processes of financialization? And how might infrastructures be differently imagined?     

Group Members

  • Bev Best, Sociology and Anthropology
    • Marxist theory and value critique; financialization; capital and the dynamics of crisis; utopia theory, collective imaginaries and the virtualities of the present
  • Martin French, Sociology and Anthropology
    • Risk; surveillance; privacy; gambling; communications and information technology; social justice
  • Orit Halpern, Sociology and Anthropology
    • Histories of science, computing, and cybernetics; design and art practice
  • Kregg Hetherington, Sociology and Anthropology
    • Environment and infrastructure; politics of scientific and expert knowledge and government regulation; social movements, international development and the state; agriculture and food politics; water infrastructure
  • Chris Hurl, Sociology and Anthropology
    • Audit cultures, urban and regional governance, organizational studies, science and technology studies, political economy
  • Marguerite Mendell, School of Community and Public Affairs
    • Community economic development; social finance and impact investing; social and solidarity economy; The commons; economic democracy; Polanyi studies
  • Norma Rantisi, Geography
    • Workforce development; labour market restructuring; social economy enterprises; the geography and social organization of cultural industries; restructuring in traditional manufacturing industries
  • Marc Steinberg, Film Studies
    • Platform studies, industry studies, Asian media industries, Japanese animation/anime, animation studies, material culture, media theory, digital culture, app studies

Activities

  1. Financialization Reading Group: made up of faculty and grad students, who meet every three weeks to discuss issues in the literatures.
  2. Speakers Series: webinars in the fall and winter featuring four scholars doing research on these topics.
  3. Annual workshop: discussing Works-in-Progress of both faculty members and grad students, and fostering critical financial literacy, featuring a keynote speaker.
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