Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Hannah Appel ─ Toward an Ethnography of "The Economy"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

4 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Each year, the International Monetary Fund releases a list of the “World’s Best Economies.” Winners in 2013 included South Sudan—the world’s fastest growing economy, and Equatorial Guinea—the economy with the most investment. If Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan are among our world’s “best” economies, it begs the question, what is a national economy, exactly? What does it measure, value, or represent? What does itdo? Using a series of national economic conferences in Equatorial Guinea as a point of departure, this talk thinks about the economy both as the totality of monetized exchanges within a defined space, and as a repository--of futurity, deferral and fantasy; for productive ideas and confusions about the state and the private sector; and for the performations of economics, statistics and numeration. A national economy is not something that can simply be revealed and acted upon, something that grows or shrinks, is liberalized or closed. Rather, it is a recursive project, an achievement, a field of contestation and potential. While this insight is true of any national economy at any time, the case of newly oil-rich Equatorial Guinea offers a unique historical moment in which the making and maintenance of something called a “national economy” was widely (and with some degree of amnesia) considered to be a new process.

Hannah Appel, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UCLA.

Development and Governance Seminar