An Anthropology of Exchange: The Market Model of Human Society (May 19-21, 2011)

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Generative Anthropology Society and Conference
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Generative Anthropology, which hypothesizes that human culture originated in the exchange of linguistic signs, offers keen insights into the powers and pitfalls of that most human of institutions: the market. Eric Gans, who in his books Science and Faith (1990), Originary Thinking (1993), Signs of Paradox (1997) and The Scenic Imagination (2007) has modeled this new way of thinking about the human, has proposed: "The exchange of goods and related values in the marketplace is complemented by the exchange of representations in the cultural sphere." There is an essential link, in other words, between linguistic and material exchange, giving the market a peculiarly troubled reputation in contemporary academic and critical discourse: though the market originated in the free exchange of signs, the increasing materialization of exchange and the institutionalization of value-based competition make the market a contested space, arousing and then attempting to recycle mimetic desire and resentment.

Proposals for papers deploying, developing, critiquing or otherwise engaging with Generative Anthropology and its theory of the market are invited. Possible topics include:

  • ethics and the market model of society
  • competing definitions of market and market society
  • anthropologies of exchange (the exchange of signs, the exchange of things)
  • logical and pragmatic paradoxes of the market model
  • representations of the business man and/or market society in drama, poetry,novels, or narrative film
  • the art and anthropology of the Great Depression, or of the Great Recession
  • fictional and/or historical representations of financial apocalypse or market collapse
  • culture against the market: romantic or modern art and the market
  • the anthropology and esthetics of advertising

    the politics and ethics of commercial art

    ancient roots of modern market institutions

  • analysis of episodes in the evolution of market institutions (trade, barter, banking, speculation)
  • capitalism without democracy? Russian anarcho-capitalism; the Chinese model
  • the history of money as a form of exchange

For an introduction to GA, examples of applications of the theory to literature, cultural studies, religious studies, and philosophy, and a GA bibliography, please visit the online journal Anthropoetics ( Excellent descriptions of GA and additional examples of the range and interpretive power of GA can also be found in The Originary Hypothesis: A Minimal Proposal for Humanistic Inquiry (2007), ed. Adam Katz.

Abstracts for papers of 20 to 25 minutes should be sent by attachment in MS-Word to Professor Matthew Schneider at Deadline: March 1, 2010.