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Financial Times:

Economic Temporalities in U.S. Culture

March 26-28, 2015 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

About

“Financial Times: Economic Temporalities in U.S. Culture” inquires into the relationship between time, financial markets, and social practice. Taking finance’s commodification of time and risk (derivatives, securities, etc.) and its prioritization of the future as a starting point, the conference establishes a conversation across the disciplines that inquires into the impact of financial temporalities on objective structures, our cultural investments in time, and everyday social practice.

In four interdisciplinary workshops, we raise questions about the processes, practices, and temporalities of the financial markets and how these interact with and impact the scope of action and the forms of agency on an individual, political, national and global level. Dedicated to an interdisciplinary inquiry that builds on, yet transcends the traditional scholarly interests of American Studies, we reflect on the challenges of teaching across the disciplinary boundaries of cultural studies and economics, as well as consider the future of cultural criticism and our own collaboration. Learn more…

Schedule

speakers

Department of Sociology, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy)

“The Time of Money in Finance and U.S. Society”

Elena Esposito

The time of money in finance and U.S. society

Traditional societies were defined by a prevalence of the past in the definition of the present. U.S. society seems to show the opposite trend: the present is defined as preparation of the future, and this is its identity. This specific temporality is expressed in phenomena like the extreme emphasis on career planning and academic education. Especially finance shows in the clearest way the present use of the future, transforming future possibilities in wealth available today. But the temporality of the future is more complex and circular, as the resulting paradoxes and financial crisis attest.

Department of Languages and Letters, University of Amsterdam

“Failure is the New Success: Narratives of Self-Actualization and the Financialized Subject”
&
The Future of Financial Times: Discussant

Joyce Goggin

The Future of Financial Times: Discussant

North American Studies Program, University of Bonn

"Nostalgic Bonds: The Materiality and Temporality of Debt"

Christian Klöckner

Finance and nostalgia involve overlapping issues of temporality,aesthetics, materiality, and affect. Both are concerned with the uncertainties of the present from which they project backward and forward to generate future value. Therefore the financialization of our economies is a major source of nostalgia, which helps the subject to negotiate the rapid changes and increasing immateriality of credit culture. Investigating the evolving aesthetics and material culture of bonds, my presentation will highlight the connections between materiality,temporality, and nostalgia.

North American Studies Program, University of Bonn

A “monstrous cheat”: Paper Money, Land Speculation, and the Antebellum National Reform Movement

Simone Knewitz

The National Reform Movement, founded in 1844, believed that the rising inequality between rich and poor could be leveled if the large public lands in the west were distributed freely to settlers, and workers of the eastern cities became farmers in the west. They criticized financial speculation, land monopolies, and the institution of paper money as the root cause of the country’s economic troubles. Their wariness of paper currency signifies their suspicion of capitalism’s abstractions and accelerated temporality. This paper will delineate and contextualize the movement’s critique of paper money and land speculation by analyzing the movement’s publications and its representations in the contemporary newspaper press.

Department of Sociology, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen

"Withdrawing Futurity: Hayek, the Chicago School, and Mathematical Finance"

Andreas Langenohl

Current theorizing about financial markets and financial economics in the social sciences and the humanities argues that financial markets and financial knowledge crucially imply references to a future that has to be predicted, or alternatively, whose unknowability has to be transformed into risk categories that can be traded on financial markets. In contrast to this theorization, the proposed paper argues that futurity as a temporal reference point has been questioned, and partly abandoned, in many sectors of contemporary financial economics.

Department of English Literature, Sophia University, Tokyo

Demon Digital: Gender, Finance, and Temporality in the Paranormal Activity Films

Julia Leyda

This talk interprets Paranormal Activity as a post-cinematic allegory of debtor capitalism in which representations of gender relations and the financialization of domestic space track along with developments in analog and then digital imaging technologies from 1988 to 2012. Female characters and their roles range from the late 80s white middle-class career woman Julie to the more assertive digital native girls in the 21st century. Running parallel to the franchise’s representations of gendered, financialized domestic space, “found footage” films are post-cinematic in their interest in the themes, technologies, aesthetics, and affects of the digital age. They repurpose the horror convention of de-familiarizing the home to make it a site of terror.

Department of Literature, American Studies, University of Stuttgart

Insurance, Fraud and Slavery: the Black Atlantic in the Cycles of Capital Accumulation

Dennis Mischke

The Zong massacre of 1781 represents an unimaginably brutal case of insurance fraud that is emblematic of the inhumanity of the transatlantic slave trade. It also demarcates a shift in capital accumulation in the 18th and 19th century. The abstraction and monetarization of human beings that accompanied this case of insurance fraud and early form of financialization can be considered a colonial confidence game. I will examine the literary repercussions of credit, confidence and the concept of life insurance as it developed in the wake of the slave trade in Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative and Melville’s Benito Cereno and The Confidence Man.

Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths
College, University of London

Spatio-Economic Frontiers and Urban Resistance in the
Global Struggle for Capital Gains

Helge Mooshammer

For the modern capitalist economy of the past 200 years, progress, as measured by the establishment of new markets, has been intrinsically linked to the opening up of new spaces. Enraged by the way in which finance models have become the ruling mode of spatialising relationships, urban protest movements have sparked an open debate about the mobile, speculative and financialised formulas of urban co-existence. Looking at the temporal quality of the moment in which the Occupy movement began to unfold, this paper will discuss the different possibilities that arise from thinking the built environment as a structure of investments, financial investments being just one of many kinds.

Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths
College, University of London

Spatio-Economic Frontiers and Urban Resistance in the
Global Struggle for Capital Gains

Peter Mörtenböck

For the modern capitalist economy of the past 200 years, progress, as measured by the establishment of new markets, has been intrinsically linked to the opening up of new spaces. Enraged by the way in which finance models have become the ruling mode of spatialising relationships, urban protest movements have sparked an open debate about the mobile, speculative and financialised formulas of urban co-existence. Looking at the temporal quality of the moment in which the Occupy movement began to unfold, this paper will discuss the different possibilities that arise from thinking the built environment as a structure of investments, financial investments being just one of many kinds.

Institute for English and American Studies, Goethe-University Frankfurt
am Main

The Incorporation of Rural America: Frank Norris’ ‘Epic of the Wheat’ and
Corporate Perpetuity

Stefanie Mueller

The Octopus tells of a conflict between a group of farmers and a railroad corporation over land. Through the perspective of its poet-protagonist it also explores two modes of time, represented by his attempts to write an epic poem of the West and by the new devices and tools that increase the farmers’ profits, such as the ticker, the telegraph, and the grain rates. While these innovations connect the farms in rural California to places all over the world and therefore are explicitly connected to space, I want to argue that they also suggest that the incorporation of rural America changes the seasonal time of the agrarian community.

Department of Sociology, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Money Never Sleeps: The End of Greed as ‘Calm Passion’

Sighard Neckel

In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, “greed” emerged as a popular interpretation pattern of the meltdown of the global financial markets. This talk considers this recourse on greed as sociological information on the ongoing change in the orientation patterns of economic action in financial market capitalism. With the banks failing to set their own boundaries against the escalatory logic of speculative gains by setting specific organizational goals, greed becomes the structural principle of economic action. As a result, greed is no longer linked with long-term economic interests and loses the civilizing ability to be transformed into a “calm passion” (David Hume).

Literary and Cultural Studies, North American Studies Program, University of Bonn

Roundtable “Cultures and Economies: On the Challenges of Interdisciplinary Teaching”

Elisabeth Schäfer-Wünsche

‘The economy’ has emerged as a highly visible focus of attention in various disciplines of the humanities. Needless to say, the approaches taken tend to differ significantly from these of economics proper. Different languages are used and different questions are asked. Our presentation will point out the challenges of interdisciplinarity on the basis of our long-term co-teaching of seminars that have brought together the knowledges and methods of our respective disciplines. Based on the challenges this has implied, we will also address the impact our collaboration has had on the general framing of our respective arguments.

Institute of Macroeconomics and Econometrics, University of Bonn

Printed Matters: Paper Money and the Future of the Book

Moritz Schularick

Finance is thought to be all about money, but what exactly is money in the current era of digitization? Economic history shows that the story of money is one of dematerialization: from shells and coins to credit cards and digital payment methods. Recent proposals have advocated for the abolishment of paper money altogether. But while economists have thought rigorously for decades about the role of physical currency, their observations have not yet been brought to bear on another ongoing debate about symbolically charged paper. What might the history of paper money have to tell us about the changing status of another traditionally paper-based object: namely, the book? Our interdisciplinary paper considers the lessons that economic history can offer to illuminate current debates about the ostensible death of the printed book. If the form of the book were indeed to change–becoming digital, for instance–would the nature of narrative and our reading practices also change? Or might the trajectory of money–from bills to bits–suggest that a shift away from paper entails a formal change, rather than a change in meaning?

Economics, North American Studies Program, University of Bonn

Roundtable “Cultures and Economies: On the Challenges of Interdisciplinary Teaching”

Klaas Staal

‘The economy’ has emerged as a highly visible focus of attention in various disciplines of the humanities. Needless to say, the approaches taken tend to differ significantly from these of economics proper. Different languages are used and different questions are asked. Our presentation will point out the challenges of interdisciplinarity on the basis of our long-term co-teaching of seminars that have brought together the knowledges and methods of our respective disciplines. Based on the challenges this has implied, we will also address the impact our collaboration has had on the general framing of our respective arguments.

Literary and Cultural Studies, North American Studies Program, University of Bonn

Fantasy Sport Leagues and the Affective Economy of Probabilistic Culture

Justin Sully

In this paper, I will present some ongoing research, which attempts to understand the place of finance in within the affective economy being composed across a circuit of interdependent cultural practices (sport, gaming, electoral politics, journalism) that are being utterly transformed by new and conspicuously popular culture of probabilistic pantometry. After very briefly introducing the broader claims and results of this ongoing research, I will focus on the case of the fantasy sport league. Fantasy sport leagues offer one of the more striking instances of a specific subjective and affective disposition being composed in what I will call popular probabilistic culture. I will argue that reading the growth of this particular practice alongside parallel analyses of the popular culture of finance might offer a route to a thicker description of the problematic of the temporality to which this conference is devoted.

English, School of Humanities, University of Dundee

The Financialization of Daily Life: Herman Melville’s 'Bartleby, the Scrivener', Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, and Dave Eggers's The Circle

Aliki Varvogli

Bartleby’s famous refusal can be understood as a refusal to follow the rhythms of work life, an indefinite postponement, and therefore as a response to a future-oriented time of the market. Joshua Ferris’s and David Eggers’s novels recontextualize the anxieties expressed by “Bartleby” by highlighting the effects of ‘office culture’ on the individual, and the ways in which new technologies are abolishing older space/time categories. At the same time, the notion of surveillance is used to interrogate the ways in which the demands of a growing economy erode not only individual freedom, but also the individual’s imagined relation to the economy.

Institute for English and American Studies, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main

The Time of Risk and the Time of Security in Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Johannes Voelz

Rather than focusing on one particular referent of security, my approach relates the concept of “security” to a distinctly modern grammar of agency, according to which rationality appears as bound up with, and conditioned by, what exceeds its reach. As such, security provides an interpretive frame for actions grounded in uncertainty. Security and risk are concepts that are related in that they are both concerned with a future that is seen as uncertain; however, they are usually kept apart because they react to this uncertainty in fundamentally different ways. In Cosmopolis the logic of security merges with the logic of financial risk.

Dept. of Literature, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Free University Berlin

Printed Matters: Paper Money and the Future of the Book

Sarah Wasserman

Finance is thought to be all about money, but what exactly is money in the current era of digitization? Economic history shows that the story of money is one of dematerialization: from shells and coins to credit cards and digital payment methods. Recent proposals have advocated for the abolishment of paper money altogether. But while economists have thought rigorously for decades about the role of physical currency, their observations have not yet been brought to bear on another ongoing debate about symbolically charged paper. What might the history of paper money have to tell us about the changing status of another traditionally paper-based object: namely, the book? Our interdisciplinary paper considers the lessons that economic history can offer to illuminate current debates about the ostensible death of the printed book. If the form of the book were indeed to change–becoming digital, for instance–would the nature of narrative and our reading practices also change? Or might the trajectory of money–from bills to bits–suggest that a shift away from paper entails a formal change, rather than a change in meaning?

Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

Interval, Spreads, and Value: Financial Practices & Affective Registers of Debt Work

Robert Wosnitzer

Contemporary finance relies upon techniques in the production/circulation of value. While risk and uncertainty are the necessary conditions for financial action, temporalities are the transient, disruptive domains from which value is created. The “interval” refers to what Marx identified as the “realization problem” for capital, and the uncertainties associated with the generation of surplus in time. These temporal and qualitative differences cohere in the derivative as quantitative “spreads.” The social space of circulation is a framework to interrogate how the affective registers generated through proximity to financial action suggest ways that society might imagine new futures by risking together.

venue

Westend Campus, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
Conference Opening @Casino 1.801
Workshops @Nebengebäude 1.741b

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1
60629 Frankfurt am Main

Download Campus Map

How to get to the conference

From Frankfurt Main Train Station

Take one of the following S-Bahn lines to „Hauptwache“: Line 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 8 / 9. From „Hauptwache“ take Underground Lines 1 / 2 / 3 to „Holzhausenstraße“. Take exit „Campus Westend“, walk 5 minutes to side entrance. Walk through the main gate till you get to “Casino” (2a on the map).


From Conference Hotel

A twenty minute walk: Turn left into Mendelsohnstraße, cross Bockenheimer Landstraße and continue on Siesmayerstraße till you get to Feldbergstraße on the right. Turn into Feldbergstraße, continue until you get to Oberlindau. Turn left. You will see the university’s main entrance.
By bus: Turn left into Mendelsohnstraße and turn right on Bockenheimer Landstraße. There is a bus stop for bus line 36. Get off at “Uni Campus Westend”. You will see the university’s main entrance.


On Campus

The Casino (Thursday) is the building (2a) behind the main building and the water basin, so you will have to enter the main building and exit through one of the back doors. The Nebengebäude (1) (Friday and Saturday) is to the right of the main building, so follow the road to the right instead of entering the main building. It will take you to the side entrance.


conference registration

Register for the "Financial Times" conference.

A small conference fee covers access to all events, the reception on Thursday night and all coffee breaks. Please register by February 15, 2015. Upon receipt of your registration, we will contact you about your payment options.

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contact

Information in accordance with section 5 TMG
Dr. Stefanie Mueller &
Christian Klöckner
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Institute for English und American Studies
Grüneburgplatz 1
60323 Frankfurt am Main

Represented by: Dr. Stefanie Mueller & Christian Klöckner
Contact:financialtimes.conference@gmail.com

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