Collateral expertise legal knowledge in the global financial markets

Annelise Riles*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


This essay offers an ethnographically grounded critique of and an alternative to science-studiesinflected approaches to the social studies of finance. The focus on trading as the core of finance and the analysis of trading as an analog of technoscientific practice unwittingly substantiate one of the core ideological claims of finance, that it is a discrete world whose activities are protoscientific. A focus on the legal, regulatory, and documentary practices that instantiate the world of traders, in contrast, presents a very different conception of finance. Finance, in this view, is an explicit politics (not a hidden politics masked as epistemological practice), a purposeful and stated compulsion of self and others, a realm of must, shall, and will, albeit one always defined by certain temporal limits. Attention to the temporal politics of finance requires an analytical approach that does more than uncover the politics of expertise. The promise of such an approach is that it might help us to apprehend already thriving forms of political response to global capitalism: arrangements of human and nonhuman legal instruments beyond critiques of global capitalism on the one hand and alternatives to global capitalism on the other. One such arrangement is what I term the placeholder. copy; 2010 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-818
Number of pages24
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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