"Market Citizenship" and the Nation: Popular Financial Trading in Israel

Sunday, June 26, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
246 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Galit Ailon, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
In recent years, researchers have drawn attention to the development and global expansion of financial cultures. Their work raises questions regarding the ways in which global financial cultures shape and interrelate with national imageries, meaning, and sentiment. Based on an ethnographic study of the popularization of trading in Israel, this paper examines how national meaning and sentiment are enacted and made sense of within a local site of the expanding popular realm of financial markets. It asks how the nation is financially narrated and (re-)imagined, and what type of affective, moral, and social orientation towards it takes shape as nonprofessionals enter these markets?

The paper shows how entrance into financial markets involves the mindful bracketing of national meaning and sentiment as a means of cultivating a particular market orientation that is deemed necessary for success. This market orientation explicitly splits the sentimental and moral meaningfulness of national events from their speculated financial "pure-effect." It institutes a double vision upon these events, implying that the same event can be legitimately looked at in two distinct ways: the nationally engaging way and the financially indifferent way. Temporarily and mindfully "postponing" national sentiment or sense of we-ness until after trading hours, this orientation nevertheless reifies the meaningfulness of the national imagery outside the market. It enacts nationality as a universe of meaning and sentiment that is well within view and merely "postponed."

Nevertheless, in the case of global trading, this mindful, within-market bracketing of national sentiment creates room for the development of a sense of "market citizenship" in the proverbial Wall Street. Israeli traders look at trading as a way of enjoying economic rights of action in American markets and of benefitting from the regulatory protection of the American economic regime. Moreover, their Wall Street experience is not merely an online, "virtual" experience, but a material and physical one that ties personal economic fates with the distant events that allegedly move the markets; that locally re-territorializes distant temporal orders; and that entails a deep and personal "feel" for and a sense of "living" the American economy.

In a sense, then, popular trading enacts the national and the financial as parallel and coexisting universes of meaning and sentiment. The paper discusses this complex, market-based re-imagining of nationality and citizenship, and its significance for our understanding of global financial cultures and their implications.