The 5th Interdisciplinary Market Studies Workshop will take place in Copenhagen, a city which derives its name from the harbour and the associated place of commerce that existed there from the 11th century. Købmannahavn translates as ‘chapman’s haven’ and ‘merchants’ harbour’ (portus mercatorum), and as such the city is a living example of how markets and cityscapes have always tended to co-create each other. Copenhagen’s history reveals another insight. Recent critics of the neoliberal city have argued that the privatization of public spaces and the redefinition of the built environment as the object of speculation have led to a privileging of the needs of wealthy investors, for whom shopping malls and luxury hotels matter more than affordable housing and places of recreation (Sassen, 2014). From that perspective, Copenhagen seems to have been a city of speculators, projectors and investors long before we started to speak of neoliberalism: a metropolis thriving on risk, expansion, and even appropriation, of geography and temporality.
From its very beginnings, Copenhagen existed as a market: the place was permanently settled by fishermen and traders, and it developed around the needs of traders and merchants. In the early 17th century, the now famous district of Christianshavn was built by King Christian IV to accommodate a new generation of global merchants who needed modern docks for their ocean-going ships that transported goods between China, India, Africa and Northern Europe. More recently, Copenhagen has become one of Europe’s largest consumers of steel because of the building of Nordhavn, a harbour area that is home to ferry and cruise-ship berths, a container terminal, marina, and industrial companies. With its various harbour areas, canals and inner-city bridges, ‘Merchants’ Harbour’ shows that it was planned from the beginning to enable market-based interactions.
With this in mind, the workshop organizers invite participants to reflect on the ‘situatedness’ and the ‘sitedness’ of markets. It has long been recognized that it is only within specific historical, spatial, cultural and power-mediated contexts that market actors are able to construct, negotiate and contest the meaning of their actions (Aspers, 2011: 40-56; Tucker et al., 2015). But what is it precisely that makes a social situation ‘a market’; what infrastructure – formal and informal – is needed to bring about and stabilize markets; and what kind of new social situations in turn are brought about by those who take part in markets? While papers on all aspects of market-related phenomena, both empirically and conceptually, are welcome, we invite participants to consider the idea more closely that markets exist in the form of concrete situations, zones and sites (Finch and Geiger, 2010). When approaching market situations and situated markets, we also encourage participants to reconsider recent changes in the nature of political language in North America and in Europe, and in particular the continuous production of homelands and strangers in response to the ongoing migration crisis. Finally, 2018 will mark the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehmann Brothers. This should raise questions as to the contributions of market studies to the analysis of the financial crisis (Mackenzie, 2011). The conveners therefore particularly welcome papers dealing with any of the following three aspects of the situatedness of markets and of market situations:
1. Language and Imaginations.Market actors need and produce their own genre of concepts, metaphors and rhetoric. Like the term ‘crisis’ (originally denoting a fork in the road), ‘liquidity’, ‘capital’, ‘finance’, and ‘bubble’ are not just economic terms, but also metaphors. We are interested in research that studies the market-building work that economic and managerial concepts are involved in (Chiapello and Gilbert, 2014). What do the changes in the language used by market actors reveal about market-related imaginations, strategies and disappointments (Bakhtin, 1984: 145-195; Tribe, 2015)? This question also points to the fact that markets are not just situated in a concrete site understood as space, but also within the framework of language, that is within word plays, metaphors and allegories.
2. Strangers and Borders.There exists of course a long-standing debate whether markets need, produce or ameliorate estrangement. According to Max Weber, economic action turns even closest friends into calculating strangers (Weber, 2013: 80-93; Roscoe, 2014). By contrast, Viviana Zelizer and Eva Illouz have argued that even the most intimate relationships are often market-mediated. According to both Zelizer and Illouz, love outside the market would be grey and lifeless (Illouz, 2007; Zelizer, 2007). Following on from that, we are interested to hear about work that studies more closely the kind of borders that markets require and erect; and in turn, what kind borders – physical and metaphorical – do markets undermine, and why and how do they tend to do so.
3. Time and Fortune. Developing visions and imaginations of future events are key aspects of all economic action (Beckert, 2013). This insight points to the fact that markets also exist in time as a form of context and situation. What’s more, the temporal nature of markets extends from the present into the appropriation of the past (Samman, 2012). Historical projectors and contemporary entrepreneurs enrol future possibilities into present value, employing narratives of possibility (Parker and Hamilton, 2016) and sophisticated accounting techniques (Muniesa et al., 2017) to capitalise on these imaginations. Market time zooms through the material, the technological, rhetorical and the social. We are therefore interested in receiving proposals that employ time as an analytic category.
Our Keynote Speakers
Jens Beckert is Professor of Sociology and Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne. His research interests include the sociology of illegal markets, wealth and inequality, and the role of imaginaries and narratives in the economy. His most recent book, Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics (Harvard University Press, 2016), received an Honourable Mention for the 2017 Zelizer Award for Best Book in Economic Sociology.
Eve Chiapello is Professor of Sociology at the Centre d’Étude des Mouvements Sociaux at EHESS Paris. Her research examines the phenomenon of the financialisation of our economy and the tools used for said financialisation. She became widely known for her study (with Luc Boltanski) of The new Spirit of Capitalism (2006). Currently, she leads an international research project on financialisation and the fabrication of intangible assets, funded by the Humboldt Foundation in collaboration with the University of Hamburg.