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Accepted Paper:

“We want companies to come here!” Why do Guinean marabouts and Parisian lawyers hanker after foreign investment projects?  
Gustav Kalm (Sciences Po)

Paper short abstract:

Why do marabouts in Guinea and investment lawyers in Paris both sing praise to foreign investment projects? This presentation shows how both of them seek foreign investment as a tool for economic development, whilst simultaneously espousing radically different visions of what improvement entails.

Paper long abstract:

Throughout two years of ethnographic fieldwork on foreign investment regulation with lawyers in Paris and around the failed Simandou mining projects in Guinea, lawyers, bankers, state bureaucrats, international elite functionaries, local politicians, geologists, financial wizards and marabouts in a variety of locales all touted the virtues of attracting foreign investment. Yet, they held very different visions of what foreign investment was and what it was meant to do. In this presentation, I contrast the different “social imaginaries” (Taylor 2004) of foreign investment and its presumed social consequences. The presentation is based on my ethnographic fieldwork with Parisian investment arbitration and project finance lawyers, the Guinean investment promotion agency and rural inhabitants in the Simandou mountain chain. Concretely, how do these people talk about foreign investment? What is their imaginary of investment and how does it matter whether it is domestic or foreign? I show how lawyers and financial specialists often viewed foreign investment in a project mindset of tasks to be accomplished. At the Guinean Investment Promotion Agency and in the different investment promotion forums that I assisted, foreign investment was mostly seen as a fountain of cash that reacts to the calling of good projects. The rural inhabitants in the Simandou mountain chain did not use the term of “foreign investment” but talked about companies (sociétés) denoting big foreign firms that they saw as agents of modernization and industrialization. Most of all, I show how financial flows are structured through radically different moral economies of desire for economic betterment.

Panel P031b
Imaginaries of foreign investment: friction and co-constitution of international financial flows and national borders [AnthEcon] II
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -