Of Spoofs and Other Awkward Movements : Relations, Infrastructures, and Meanings in Automated Financial Markets

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 4:15 PM-5:45 PM
247 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, UC San Diego, San Diego, CA
In recent years, relational approaches have flourished throughout sociology. From the study of culture and social movements to discussions about intimate economic transactions and the production of economic objects, relations figure prominently in the intellectual toolkit of a broad collection of theorists and analysts in our discipline. Characterized by a reflexive and critical perspective on interpersonal and collective phenomena, these relational approaches have contributed much to the understanding of how the ongoing construction of meaning through interactions and connections constitutes the fabric of social life. In this paper, though, I ask the apparently trivial question of “what is a relation?” to problematize the analytical scope of relational approaches in economic sociology. In particular, I look at theoretical developments in a sister discipline (anthropology) to imagine what an alternative relational economic sociology might look like. Departing from the dominant paradigm of the Durkheiman/Levi-Straussian relational conception, I engage with the theories of Marilyn Strathern, whose STS-inspired work presents relations as the products of specific shared knowledge practices. This theoretical shift allows examining a different type of relational sociology, one that emphasizes knowledge infrastructures, demarcation, and category building over other connective forms of meaning making. I apply this relational/infrastructural approach to the study of contemporary discussions around spoofing in financial markets. In particular, I show that the definition of spoofing is always contested and always tied to discussions of infrastructures, their use, and how they configure social action in the market field. As an awkward relation, then, the meaning and valence of spoofing is partly given by what makes the infrastructures of finance.