• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Economics, Finance
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

It’s folded in our wallets, encoded in plastic, written in computer code, forecast on the trading-room floor, paid in bride wealth, locked up in the reserve bank: Money. Anthropology has long been invested in the forms of circulation and exchange that are the grounds for value production in different societies, from shells to cattle to mortgage backed securities. What is distinctive about modern money within these distributional orders? How do we understand money as a social, political and technological phenomenon? This course explores the myriad uses to which money is put. Simultaneously, we question how features of the money form (commensuration, abstraction, quantification, and reification) are experienced and organized. Does money always and in all places repeat the same story of the “great transformation” from socially embedded to abstract and calculative exchange? If not, what might we learn from the pragmatics of money, form high-flying investment bankers to specially designated gift cards? In lecture and tutorial we learn to read and analyze ethnography and social theory, and explore film and fiction, in order to understand the impact of modern money on areas of social life including work, kinship, gender, morality, mobility, and globalization.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon Successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Discuss the historical transformation of money and debate its variation across different societies.
  2. Differentiate between approaches to economic behavior and explain their relation to concepts in social theory.
  3. Interpret ethnographic material and evaluate the research methods and contributions to anthropology in writing.
  4. Identify major issues with modern money and apply them to case studies drawn from everyday economic practice.
  5. Develop an in-depth analysis of a feature of money, markets and value using ethnographic sources, media, and archives.

Indicative Assessment

Participation, 10% [learning outcome 1]

Ethnography practicums, 30% (2 assignments, 15% each), 750 words [LO 2,3]

Money Biography 20% 1,000 words [LO 3,4,5]

10 minute tutorial "marketplace" debate 10% [LO1,2,4]

Final writing project, 30%. 2,000 words [LO 4,5]

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A 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial per week for 13 weeks. Students are expected to undertake a further 7 hours of independent study each teaching week of the semester (total 130 hours)

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 12 units of 1,000 level courses.

Prescribed Texts

Readings will be indicated on the Wattle course site.

Preliminary Reading

Malinowski, Bronislaw. "The primitive economics of the Trobriand Islanders." The Economic Journal (1921): 1-16.

Readings for the course will include selected book chapters and articles from current ethnographies, social theory, media studies, and fiction. For example:

  • Rogers, Douglas. "Moonshine, money, and the politics of liquidity in rural Russia." American Ethnologist 32.1 (2005): 63-81.
  • Graeber, David. Debt: the first 5,000 years. New York: Melville Press, 2011. (Chapter 2: The Myth of Barter, pp. 21-41)
  • Stout, Noelle. After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba, Durham NC: Duke University Press (2014).
  • Le Guin, Ursula K. "The Dispossessed”: An Ambiguous Utopia. New York: Eos." (2001).
  • Decatur, Mary-Anne. "Chinese Gold Farming: Discourses of Space and Legitimacy in Virtual Worlds." Popular Anthropology Magazine 3.1 (2012).
  • Cooper, Melinda. "Turbulent worlds financial markets and environmental crisis." Theory, Culture & Society 27.2-3 (2010): 167-190.

Assumed Knowledge

Recommended introductory course ANTH1002




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $2718
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3876
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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