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Unit Overview


The language and models used in finance have come to dominate more than simply the business pages. Citizens as consumers and investors are increasingly expected to have financial literacy as a core skill and engage with the culture of measurement in the form of self-management, audit and forms of accountability. Financial markets have become the central feature of contemporary capitalism as profits become more tied to forms of rent, develop seemingly unending possibilities for the distribution of risk and are less connected to trade and commodity production. This unit examines how anthropologists have studied the increased importance of finance, audit and money. What are the implications of these new forms for the self and for social organisation? What are the fictions of finance, its techniques and apparatus? What are the social and cultural realities of financial service professionals, their worksites and their instruments such as futures, derivatives, options and audits? How can these specific examples be extended to understand broader issues, social worlds, institutions and other experiences? The unit links contemporary theoretical and methodological innovations with anthropology's long interest in alternative economic forms. Although based in anthropological work, the unit is interdisciplinary in scope.

6 points
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) describe the key conceptual and methodological innovations in a contemporary subfield within anthropology/sociology; (2) describe the key concepts, theories and debates within the anthropology/sociology of money, finance and audit; (3) situate this new field with related work in economic anthropology, ethnographic research methods, organisation studies, migration studies and interdisciplinary work in the social studies of finance; (4) analyse the social/cultural underpinnings of key technocratic practices in contemporary globalisation; (5) develop a written and oral capacity to present clear, lucid, well-documented arguments, drawing on both theory and empirical or ethnographic material relevant to this unit in a collegial manner and setting; and (6) tackle novel situations and ill-defined problems.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essays; (2) tutorial/workshop participation; and (3) an in-class examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Nicholas Harney
Unit rules
any Level 1 Anthropology unit
ANTH2205 The Social Meaning of Money
Contact hours
lectures/tutorials/workshops: 28 hrs
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.