The Unedited Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures
The Meaning of Money in China and the United States
The Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture Series
University of Rochester, 1986
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by Eleana Kim
Lecture I: Money and value in China
Lecture II: Spirits and currency in China
Lecture III: Money and value in the United States
Lecture IV: Spirit and prosperity in the United States
Praise for The Meaning of Money in China and the United States
At last, and miraculously free-of-charge by virtue of HAU, we have Emily Martin’s crucial contribution to the anthropology of money. Here is a detailed historical, archival, and ethnographic examination of the “dense meanings deposited in money” in the longest-running monetized economy in world history, namely that of China. Certain contrasts with European history define Martin’s point of departure, and one which adds power to our conviction that, without China, the theorization of money is necessarily impoverished. In exquisite ethnographic detail from PRC sources and fieldwork in Taiwan, and drawing widely on the anthropological archive, Martin shows just how differently “accumulation” works in different systems of conversion and configuration of value. Martin’s comparative analytics offer insights into the sociality-independence axis of transactions in the Chinese and Western money systems, in practice and in cultural definition, along with the mapping of money onto a moral axis according to degrees and kinds of sociability and evil/occult properties. This lecture series may be almost thirty years old but it is not a single day out of date. We need it. It deserves to be an instant treasure in the study of money.
—Jane I. Guyer, George Armstrong Kelly Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, author of Marginal gains: Monetary transactions in Atlantic Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2004).
Although delivered in 1986, Emily Martin’s lectures are both timely and iconoclastic. Timely because she anticipates and contributes to contemporary reassessments of capitalism (notably, David Graeber’s magisterial Debt: The first 5000 years) from the simultaneously comparative and critical vantage of anthropology—a vantage frequently promised but seldom so successfully brought to realization. Iconoclastic because as anthropology’s “ontological turn” (indexed in a shift from critiques of ideology to “knowledge production”) gains steam, Martin’s unapologetic affirmation of critique is refreshing. Drawing creatively from broad familiarity with China and from ethnographic involvements in the contemporary United States, Martin makes a compelling case to the effect that, in the final analysis, money (like debt) possesses potentials both to connect people to others and to become a fetishized instrument of alienation and exploitation.
—P. Steven Sangren, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University, author of Chinese sociologics: An anthropological account of the role of alienation in social reproduction (LSE Monographs, Athlone, 2007).
This is a superb comparative study of the different meanings associated with money in China and the United States. Through extremely rich ethnographic and historical examples, Emily Martin reveals the distinctive ways that money is understood and employed in social practices in both cultures. Inter alia, these lectures are a beautiful demonstration that many of our theories about the impact that money has on society are based implicitly on American conceptions found in the United States—which should by no means be considered as some kind of inherent or universal result of the workings of money. Emily Martin’s Morgan Lectures are a true classic, and will remain so for years to come.
—Michael Puett, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University, author of To become a god: Cosmology, sacrifice, and self-divinization in early China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2002).
Emily Martin is Professor of Anthropology at New York University. She is the author of The cult of the dead in a Chinese village (Stanford University Press, 1973), Chinese ritual and politics (Cambridge University Press, 1981), The woman in the body: A cultural analysis of reproduction (Beacon Press 1987), winner of the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize, Flexible bodies: Tracking immunity in American culture from the days of polio to the age of AIDS (Beacon Press, 1994) and Bipolar expeditions: Mania and depression in American culture (Princeton University Press, 2007), winner of the Diana Forsythe Prize. She is also the founding editor of the public interest magazine Anthropology Now.
© 2014 by Emily Martin
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
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2014. Martin, Emily. The meaning of money in China and the United States. The HAU-Morgan Lectures Initative, Vol. 1. Chicago: HAU Press.
THE HAU-MORGAN LECTURES INITIATIVE
A HAU AND UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER COLLABORATION