Accepted paper:

Coordinating money flows in rural economies: eighteenth-century England and twenty-first century Nigeria


Jane Guyer (Johns Hopkins University)

Paper short abstract:

Mobilization by “composition” can be a complement to our conceptual repertoire for solidarity. The paper finds temporal aspects of composition, as coordination in response to turbulence in money access, in a Western Nigerian rural community and in classic eighteenth-century works.

Paper long abstract:

The quality of coordination in time is a component of the more general processes of sharing, cooperation and solidarity which is crucial to the containment of life-threatening risk to people and loss of value to things under turbulent conditions, as well as to the capacity to seize advantage from passing situations. Seasonal surges and retreats, price hikes and collapses, health and illness are all themes in the historical and anthropological study of "solidarity", although the sheer variety of social forms for rapid response may well be under-explored. Working from my earlier articles on "composition", I focus on its specifically temporal features: from field research in Western Nigeria on the seasonality of access to cash money, where the temporal coordination of money managers was a surprising finding (in contrast to expected competition for customers), and working back to the eighteenth century Enlightenment scholars' treatment of price fluctuation in British rural life. Coordination is argued to be an intrinsic quality of the "third pillar" of the Enlightenment aspiration to "fraternity" as "solidarity", also practiced through "social composition" processes, especially significant in times of crisis, large and small.

panel P01
Enlightenment's third pillar: solidarity and solidarity economies