The real in the real economy

Federico Neiburg, Jane I. Guyer


Over the last few decades, and especially following the 2008 crisis and the current period of turbulence and uncertainty, “the real economy” has been transformed into one of the most critical concepts shaping public debates on the present and future of our collective existence. In this special section of HAU, we propose an ethnographic theory of the “real economy” by questioning how assemblages of vernacular and scientific realizations and enactments of the real economy are linked to ideas of truth and moral values; how these multiple and shifting realities become present, and entangle with historically and socially situated lives; and how the formal realizations of the real in the governance of economies engage with the experiential life of ordinary people. In this cooperative exploration of a concept that holds varied and shifting places across different disciplines, and is applied under varying conditions in the world, what comes to the fore is the huge potential of the ethnographic method. The special section, the outcome of a Wenner-Gren Foundation workshop held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2016, will be published in two parts.


economy, reality, realization, ethnographic theory, economic lives, global economy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.3.015