Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: General Anthropology Division
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: Labor
Silicon Valley and Wall Street exist in the popular imagination as reified forces whose practices shape the destinies of ordinary human beings far and wide. In fact, both are places where people live and work; both are ideologies based upon specific assumptions. These sessions explore the mythologies and the realities that comprise two key American, albeit globally connected, phenomena. They describe the particular characteristics of each domain, seek common elements shared by both, and analyze their interplay and interdependence.
The papers in the sessions consider how the day-to-day habits of the natives combine with cultural and economic narratives to shape the habitus of the cultures. Drawing upon past studies and research in progress, they examine the historic ongoing dialectic between institutions and “disrupters.” Who lives the reality depicted in the narratives, and who has the cultural authority to shape those stories? How is that story seen from different points of view from long-term denizens, short-term sojourners, and outside interpreters? By what means are newcomers socialized, trained, ranked, and sorted? What subcultures and countercultures exist within the domains, and how do the members perceive and present their identities? How has the double helix of technological inventions and financial instruments evolved, and what emerging trends can be discerned?
In this session, Patricia Ensworth, an information systems project manager and sailing instructor, analyzes the relationship between digital securities trading at investment banks and sailboat racing in New York Harbor. Rachel Naa-Du Laryea, an African-American scholar formerly employed at Goldman Sachs explores the relationship between race and finance, describing how Black financial professionals conceive of their work, labor, and racial identity while building community at the margins of capitalism. Daniel Souleles, discusses his research on automated algorithmic trading and explains changes in job qualifications, organizational cultures, and market strategies now in progress at leading financial institutions. Drawing upon twenty years of award-winning research and reporting, Gillian Tett, journalist, author, and radio/television commentator, offers insights into how the structural organization of finance and the cultural pattern of the media create areas of selective blindness which increase systemic risk. Melissa Fisher, anthropologist, and author of a well-known ethnography of women on Wall Street, describes her role in the making of a critically-acclaimed film about a fictional female investment banker leading the IPO of a Silicon Valley company. Aneil Tripathy, a researcher specializing in the design of sustainable financial systems, proposes that within the emerging domain of climate finance, Silicon Valley and Wall Street exist as two poles that shape what practitioners imagine to be possible in transforming both markets and the environmental impact of economic activity.
Scholar-practitioners in the sessions approach their topics from two directions. First, the regions are subject to the anthropological gaze as topics in their own right, as anthropologies of work or globalization. In addition, anthropologists who actively work in these locations as practitioners offer a valuable perspective about the meaning of their experiences among the natives.