“Money Is Life”

Quantity, Social Freedom, and Combinatory Practices in Western Kenya

in Social Analysis
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Abstract

This article focuses on how money’s quantity is enacted as multiple in Kaleko, a small market center in Western Kenya. Residents of Kaleko conceptualize money’s quantity as abstracting, concretizing, and recursive. Theorizing this ethnographic data allows us to understand money as a sign that stands against itself. The abstracting and concretizing properties of money’s quantity symbolize what it means to be coerced to do something, while its recursive property symbolizes what it means to act freely. The article scrutinizes how money’s recursive quantity thereby relates to one peculiar trait of free social encounters in Kaleko: it suspends the distinction between part and whole with the help of ‘combinatory practices’.

Contributor Notes

Mario Schmidt is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Gerda Henkel Foundation and an Associate Member of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School of the Humanities at the University of Cologne. He has published in several journals, including Africa, Ethnohistory, and HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. His current research interests include football betting in rural Western Kenya and the impact of concepts from the natural sciences on the development of Émile Durkheim’s and Marcel Mauss’s thought.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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