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Finance as ‘bizarre bazaar’: Using documents as a source of ethnographic knowledge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-577
Number of pages25
JournalOrganization
Volume26
Issue number4
Early online date16 Nov 2018
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 27 Sep 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 Nov 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2019

Abstract

Markets and finance have long attracted ethnographic interest but the nature of their activity – opaque, secretive and increasingly placeless – precludes traditional ethnographic fieldwork. In this article, we propose documents as an alternative access point to these organisations as an ethnographic object of enquiry. Documents do not only present a written record, but they also enact relationships and encode tacit understandings. We develop Geertz’s work on the bazaar by taking an indirect route to access the field site – collateralised debt obligation – through documents. In reading these documents, we assume the position of investors who, in the absence of alternative publicly available information, are dependent on the documentary accounts made available to them by the sellers. These media act in ways that are similar to tourist guidebooks, a comparison we use to reframe the exchange as one that builds upon sociocultural relations rather than the abstract market relationships described by mainstream economists. We propose that these documents are not merely representational artefacts of the organisation but serve to establish and maintain social relationships between buyers and sellers through the management, standardisation and ritualisation of information disclosed to the investor.

    Research areas

  • Bazaar, collateralised debt obligations, documents, ethnography, finance, judgement, markets, secrets

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  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Sage at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1350508418808231 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 1 MB, PDF document

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