Representing Value and the Value of Representation: A Different Look at Money

Essay Excerpt

These are not the questions economists typically ask, but they are the questions the Israeli case compelled me to ask. After years of living the Israeli experience and analyzing it, it became clear that it was not the "hard facts" economists presumably juggle that cried out for analysis but, rather, the ways we manage our apparent need to objectify some things as "real" and transform our objectification of others in light of our valorization of the "real." The details I adduce are specific to Israel but the general phenomenon, I would argue, is not. When the introduction of a different currency or a high rate of inflation or a shift in the relative abundance or status of particular commodities alters the financial status quo for individuals as well as institutions, much of what we otherwise take for granted about money loses its stability and with it our certainty. The question is how we react epistemologically and politically, and what we can learn from it about representation and our objectification of reality. (Dominguez, 19)

About the Author

Virginia R. Dominguez is a Professor of Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Illinois. She is also Co-Founder and Consulting Director of The International Forum for U.S. Studies (established in 1995) and Co-Editor of its book series, "Global Studies of the United States."  A political and legal anthropologist, she is now the immediate past President of the American Anthropological Association and a recent past Editor of American Ethnologist. Author, coauthor, editor, and coeditor of multiple books, she is perhaps best known for her work on the U.S. (especially in White By Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana) and her work on Israel (especially in People as Subject, People as Object: Selfhood and Peoplehood in Contemporary Israel). Prior to joining the Illinois faculty in 2007, she taught at Duke University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Iowa, and Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest.  She has also been Directeur d'Etudes at the EHESS (the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) in Paris, a Simon Professor at the University of Manchester, a Research Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, and a Junior Fellow at Harvard.

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