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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Call for Papers - ASA Panel: "Miraculous Wealth & Foreseeable Futures


55th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association

November 29th-December 1st, 2012, Philadelphia

Miraculous Riches & Foreseeable Futures:

Representations of Wealth and Pursuits of Value in Africa


George Paul Meiu (University of Chicago)

Joshua Z. Walker (University of Chicago)

The wealth that appears (and disappears) suddenly in social landscapes of
economic hardship has long fascinated those struggling to imagine and
produce livable futures. Ghostly riches with alluring surface appearances
have long constituted central idioms for the imagination of social and
economic value in Africa. At least since colonialism, the miraculous and
abrupt appearance of large houses and big bellies, stacked granaries and
overflowing bank accounts, Mercedes cars and private planes, dollars and
diamonds have triggered social anxieties and suspicions. Meanwhile, such
material signs of speedy enrichment were also fetishized indices of
concrete possibilities and foreseeable futures. With market liberalization
in Africa, narratives about quick wealth figure even more centrally in
everyday struggles to imagine durable forms of social reproduction and
value. For example, analyses of value and social reproduction since the
1980s have showed how structural adjustment programs and the undermining
of the state’s redistributive capacities intensified and diversified
various kinds of speculative economies. Hence, while these economies have
long existed, the current historical moment â€" where even the US dollar,
otherwise the emblem of stable value, has become ontologically uncertain
â€" demands renewed attention. We aim to extend these earlier approaches
by analyzing the productive presence of miraculous wealth in social
reproduction under global capitalism in the twenty first century. Our
panel seeks to theorize the tensions at the heart of the production of
durability in its material, moral, and symbolic forms. At stake in this
exploration are the ways in which practices and objects are construed as
durable and thus bearing the capacity to secure certain forms of economic
production and social reproduction in the longue durée. Indeed, one of
the key questions facing Africans today is the chronic condition of
temporariness or lack of permanence in the attempts of African
postcolonial subjects to create stability (or a sense of it) amidst

How do rapid riches figure in the speculative economies of contemporary
Africa? What kinds of futures, temporalities, and pathways of social
reproduction are at stake in “miraculous” wealth creation? How do
particular kinds of practices, objects, or knowledge become construed as
“durable” or enduring? How does miraculous wealth generate notions of
un/durability of value and of ir/responsible social reproduction? What is
the relationship between representations of and practices surrounding
miraculous wealth? How are different attempts to create enduring wealth
and value morally evaluated in everyday life? How do people read the
surface appearances of wealth as a way to represent the moral significance
of their actions to themselves and others?

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to George Paul Meiu
( or Joshua Z. Walker ( by
February 1, 2012.

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