Latin America and the Caribbean
How mobile is money in societies that, until recently, were largely cashless? Are big, unwieldy cash denominations—such as Peru’s 100-sol bill—uniquely mobile, or uniquely stationary in such places? Might new influxes of cash have special impacts on poverty, economic life, and even the ways people self-identify? Large cash units have recently begun to circulate through the rural communities of Andean Peru’s Colca Valley due to two factors: (1) the recent emergence of a developmental paradigm emphasizing microfinance investments in enterprises that promote indigenous culture as a market good, and (2) the rise in cash-cropping as a means of livelihood. In its capacity to structure savings, transactions, and value distribution, large cash denominations provide a unique and rarely explored avenue for understanding the everyday impacts of development intervention. This project draws on anthropological theories of money, economic development, and indigenous identity to argue that new forms of usage, transfer, and mobility of specifically large bills are reconfiguring the ways Colcans relate to one another and conceptualize themselves. The study will be anchored in ethnographic analyses of cash changing hands, methodologically rooted in three case studies: two development investments in enterprises marketing indigenous identity—a tourism enterprise and a quinoa exportation initiative—and one formerly subsistence household that has recently turned to cash cropping.
About the Researcher(s)
Eric Hirsch is a doctoral candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests center on the intersection between indigenous identity and development investment in rural Peru. For his MA in anthropology he researched climate activism and everyday life in the Maldives, a nation projected to be rendered uninhabitable due to rising seas.
Synopsis of Research Results
1. Link to his final report: Making Change in Peru: Big Bills, Financialized Development, and the Potentializing Limits of Fungibility.
2. Link to blog post part 1.
3. Link to blog post part 2.