Workshop — Genealogies of Financialization: Reframing Sovereignty in Asia (1600–present)



WORKSHOP DIRECTORS:

Sankaran Krishna
Professor of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa
krishna@hawaii.edu

Saeyoung Park
Assistant Professor, Modern Korean Studies, Leiden University
spark34@jhu.edu

WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS:

Colin Agur, Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Law School, Yale University
“Communication Technology, Illicit Flows of Capital, and State-Society Tensions”

Giulia Dal Maso, PhD Candidate, Cultural Studies, Institute for Culture and Society “Past and present mass financialization: continuity in state legitimation”

Laura Elder, Assistant Professor, Global Studies, Saint Mary’s College Notre Dame
“Banking Like a State: An alternative genealogy of Islamic finance”

Harald Fuess, Professor, Cultural Economic History, Heidelberg University
“Undermining the Sovereignty of Korea? Capital Flows, Investments, and Trade, 1876-1910”

Howard Kahm, Assistant Professor, Underwood International College, Yonsei University
“Currency Smuggling: Monetary Sovereignty, Decolonization, and Undercover Financial Networks during the American Occupation of Korea, 1945-1948”

Geeta Patel, Associate Professor, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia
“Liquid Capital, Illiquid Entities: The East India Company and the Madras Civil Fund”

Aditi Saraf, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
“Frontier’s Signature: Trade and Territory at the Edges of Empire”

Kellee Tsai, Head and Chair Professor, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
“Moving Merchants and Money: Zhejiang and Gujarat’s Transnational Traders”

Leilah Vevaina, Postdoctoral Fellow, Religious Diversity, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
“To Hong Kong and Back Again: Building Bombay and Redeveloping Mumbai”

CALL FOR WORKSHOP PAPERS:

The Great Recession of 2007 and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 have ignited interest in how state power and peoples’ will are transmuted, amplified, and undermined by global financial regimes. Few may know of earlier financial crises, such as those in late Ming China (1368–1644) that led to the Single-Whip silver tax reform that sparked the first global integration of currency markets. Financial crises and state responses have shifted state-society boundaries for centuries, giving rise to novel transnational financial orders that discipline and engender new ideas of personhood and political subjectivities. Situated at the nexus of state power and finance from 1600 to the present, our objective is to explore non-Eurocentric genealogies of financialization across Asia.

We conceive of financialization broadly as an apparatus or a set of practices, discourses, and epistemologies that mediate the contested reordering of the world along lines of credit, assets, capital mobility and extraction. Whether it’s pilgrimage financing through informal credit associations in the eighteenth century, nineteenth century indentured service practices, or a twentieth century M&A deal, our daily transactions and their attendant logics of financialization are deeply imbricated in systems of value, security, and regulation that give rise to the ubiquitous yet unseen architecture of transborder finance.

Exploring new ways to periodize and historicize financialization, this workshop focuses on three inter-related themes:

  1. Financialization and Nation/Empire making: First, we will interrogate the ways in which financialization and its accompanying socio-legal technologies are deployed in state and empire building from 1600–present. Triumphalist western narratives often fall short in explaining global finance’s failures to displace local, often older, parallel systems of credit, or assume institutionalization occurs only by alien imposition and with little local mediation. Hence, a study of financialization over the longue durée reinscribes Asian experiences into teleologies of finance, e.g. highlighting how the house of Jagat Seth, a giant Jain indigenous banking firm brokered the rise of Company Raj, hastening the eighteenth century decline of the Mughal Empire. How do such analyses trouble a convergent understanding of the state as postcolonial restorer of sovereignty and as a neoliberal shepherd of economic development?
  2. Forgotten intermediaries of finance: Our vantage renders visible mobile middle men and women whose political alliances do not neatly align with geopolitical boundaries. State-centered scholarship awkwardly accommodates the individuals, private banks, and black market financiers that have historically facilitated credit flows through the “plumbing” of regional and global finance that existed prior to the modern institutionalization of international finance. The slippery spaces between money and morality can foster unlikely alliances that cross racial, gender, and political lines. Hence, this workshop seeks new studies that explore how people and institutions have navigated scales of financialization (simultaneously global/local; Islamic/Western; colonial/postcolonial) that disrupt traditional territorial orders that undergird sovereignty by producing new geographies that bring Shanghai and faraway Mumbai closer together than Shanghai and Shenyang.
  3. Problematizing the state-market binary: International financial institutions (IFIs such as the World Bank and the IMF) have broken out of their “straitjackets of transactional legal work,” to invest in the construction of economic foundations—work formerly within the domain of states. The recursive dynamics through which IFIs and their partners acquire state functions, sometimes against sovereign resistance, but at times in collusion with states (often against other states) complicates straightforward analyses. Further, is what we think of as the “work of a state” stable when states themselves have been reconfigured by waves of financialization? How has financialization shaped continuities in state practice over the five-century decline and re-emergence of Asian economic hegemonies?

Participants are not required to engage the entire longue durée of Asian financialization (1600–present), but we seek papers on the theme of finance and sovereignty that use multidisciplinary methods, trace historical lineages, and preferably range across more than one (nation-)state.