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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Federico Neiburg (National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)

Inflation – Pragmatics of money and inflationary sensoria


The recent transformation of inflation into a first-order global issue invites us to update the anthropological agenda on the theme. The combination of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Eastern Europe and the environmental crisis have generated a cascading series of phenomena which range from emergency injections of liquidity to maintain a minimum spending power for poor peoples and to ensure the survival of companies, to the interruption of chains of supply and a generalized spike in the prices of basic goods, such as energy and food. The multidimensional character of the crisis drives heated debates about its causes and remedies. Measures have been breathlessly implemented by international agencies, central banks and governments, while people and families face inflationary landscapes in their day-to-day lives, navigating in a mist that obscures their personal and collective futures. 

The aim of this presentation is to propose an approach to inflation that seeks to illuminate the plurality of processes and social experiences covered by the term from a perspective that combines the pragmatics of money and an attention to the sensory dimension of rising prices. I will present this conceptual framework in conversation with my own previous ethnographies on inflation in Brazil and Argentina, and my current research on the cost of living in Rio de Janeiro favelas and the expensive life (laviche) in Port-au-Prince popular neighborhoods (katie popilè). I will open some of the curtains of these heterogeneous experiences to illuminate through the pragmatics of money and the inflationary sensorium, the ways of thinking and living inflation, the inequalities it generates as perceived by mi interlocutors, and the impoverishment and suffering produced by accelerated price increase.

Friday, 2 June, 2023 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation only