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Money Menace


15-17 August 2012
Call for Papers
Essex Business School, University of Essex
Colchester, UK

‘…In what is broadly called commentary, the hierarchy between primary and secondary text plays two roles which are in solidarity with each other. On the one hand it allows the (endless) construction of new discourses. The dominance of the primary text… the basis for an open possibility of speaking. But on the other hand the commentary’s only role, whatever the techniques used, is to say at last what was silently articulated “beyond”, in the text. By a paradox which it always displaces but never escapes, the commentary must say for the first time what had, nonetheless, already been said, and must tirelessly repeat what had, however, never been said.’ (Foucault, 1981: 55-56)

Critical Finance Studies Conference

Studying finance critically is playing with / being played by the normative forces of financial apparatuses; risking one’s self in the course of producing radically novel ways of thinking and comprehending finance and, ultimately, of creating new possibilities of life. With this in mind the Fourth Annual Critical Finance Studies conference will be held this year at the University of Essex, Essex Business School, August 15th -17th. With a conference gap in 2011 and with a financial crisis that is still on the agenda, and perhaps even stronger than ever, even compared with 2008, we have decided to devote this year’s conference to the ongoing financial crisis.

The Financial Crisis– futures and pasts re-interpreted

We strongly encourage papers that contribute to our ongoing collaborative research project that seeks to engage finance in new and critical ways and from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. This is especially important when trying to understand the current ‘financial situation’, e.g. how people in everyday work and life are affected, how the environment is affected, how theories cope and adapt in the face of a protracted crisis, and how politicians, professional bodies and professionals respond to or promote change or not. We encourage papers that tackle these sorts of issues and, with this in mind, the conference is organized around three sub-streams: an open stream on theory, method, and critique; a stream on financial imaginaries/imagining finance; and a stream on sustainability/finance (see below for more details). The conference finale will comprise a semi-public and interdisciplinary panel in order to, we hope, create some interesting debates, and inspire new thoughts and create new possibilities of life.

Papers should be submitted to the allocated convenor for each sub-theme. We encourage and welcome passionate academic work in different stages and forms, but they all need to be developed enough so that the audience can be intellectually challenged and involved in discussions. The deadline for an extended abstract (about 1000 words) is 15th April 2012. A review panel will announce their decision of acceptance within two weeks from the deadline. Accepted papers should be submitted in their final form by 1 July 2012.

The conference is organised by Dr Ann-Christine Frandsen at Essex Business School, Essex University in collaboration with Dr Thomas Bay Stockholm University (Forslund and Bay, 2009). The venue will be at the University of Essex, Colchester Campus. The conference language will be English. Discussants will be appointed – introducing papers, chairing sessions, involving participants.

Open Stream: Theory, Method, and Critique

Convenors: Jason Glynos, Department of Government, University of Essex & Ann-Christine Frandsen, Accounting Group, Essex Business School,

We invite papers in finance studies that provoke critical engagement with current practices, open up pathways for effective political mobilization and socio-economic transformation, or sketch out possible counter-visions entailing alternative practices and forms of governance. The open stream is designed to catch contributions that tackle issues that fit the conference theme but do not necessarily fall neatly into one of the titled streams. For example: How might critical engagements with finance tell us something about the way markets are performed in other areas of economic life? What forms of subjectivity might different finance practices promote? How should we think the connections between finance and other sectors of the economy? What role should key concepts such as merit and remuneration, surplus labour, speculation, technology, and competition play in how we theorize and imagine finance?

The politics of financial reform draws on a range of characterizations, diagnoses, and prognoses of the recent financial crisis. Such ‘problematizations’ matter because they set in train path dependencies that invite us to problematize those problematizations themselves. Some, for example, seek to avoid heaping blame onto a few individual ‘bad apples’, one of the most trenchant narratives repeatedly and insistently articulated in the mass media. Some seek to avoid locating the fault with finance as such. Others argue that the financial crisis should be understood as a hubris-induced elite debacle rather than a systems accident or fiasco (Engelen et al 2011). The tension between explanatory and interpretive dimensions in these problematizations is never far from the surface, but what is clear is that the way finance is characterized, problematized, and contested has consequences for citizens and for policy makers, not least because of the sorts of futures they open up or close down. This raises issues about how different theoretical perspectives and methodological techniques shape the way we characterize, problematize, and contest financial practices and associated policy and media representations at elite and popular levels; or about how different sorts of critique emerge, relate, and interact with one another, for example, normative and ideological forms of critique.

We encourage the submission of papers that draw on poststructuralist, post-marxist, psychoanalytic, Deleuzian, Foucauldian, and other traditions, and that explore a range of theoretical, methodological, and critical issues linked to the analysis of finance. What forms of innovative, progressive, and sustainable banking and finance do such perspectives enable us to imagine? What role should experiment play in these efforts to conjure alternative visions? How should these experiments be financed? What innovative means of critique are available to citizens living in democratic polities with a tightly coupled nexus of elites in politics-finance-media? What role should music, film, television, social networking platforms, and other media play in facilitating both the process of critique and the conjuring of counter-visions of finance practice and governance?

Stream 2: Financial Imaginaries/Imagining Finance

Convenor: Christian de Cock, Management Group, Essex Business School

A key area of concern in this stream is the “imaginary of finance”, the semiotic system that gives meaning and shape to the economic field in which finance is embedded. Empirically we encourage the submission of papers that explore how, despite the convulsions of 2008 and their continuing reverberations, this imaginary has remained pretty much intact anno 2012 (in that we have witnessed over and over again the re-articulation of established themes and genres). Established financial imaginaries have no doubt proved extremely powerful in shaping the thoughts and perceptions of key political and economic decision makers and it would be interesting to learn more about the mechanics of this. Theoretically we encourage papers that can enrich and develop the notion of “imaginary” itself within a financial context. Examples could include Lacan’s (Real-Symbolic-Imaginary) or Iser’s (Real-Fictive-Imaginary) triad.  We also encourage the submission of papers that can offer new ways of imagining finance. Following Yusoff and Gabrys (2011), we see imagination as “a way of sensing, thinking, and dreaming the formation of knowledge, which creates the conditions for material interventions in and political sensibilities of the world”. What are the conditions of possibility to change dominant framings of the financial imagination? Can we re-imagine the organization of finance as an ethical, societal, and cultural problem? Can we open up a generative space of unknowing which can create the possibility to take us beyond the seemingly eternal dialectic of economic catastrophe and ‘business as usual’? These are just some of the questions you may help formulate answers to.

Stream 3: Sustainability / Finance

Convenor: Steffen Böhm, Management Group, Essex Business School and interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex,

Finance is arguably at the heart of what might be called the global capitalist economy, which is geared towards ever increasing growth of production and consumption. A whole host of critics and social movements have pointed to the unsustainable nature of this self-referential system, and particularly its negative environmental consequences. Specifically, financial service industries have been repeatedly accused of funding environmentally very damaging extractive industry projects (such an open pit mining, oil tar sands, etc), contributing to the creation of speculative bubbles of commodity markets (e.g. leading to higher basic food prices), and endangering the livelihood of indigenous and other communities (threatened by global industries invading their land, for example), to name but a few of the grievances that have been articulated. We are seeking contributions that map, evaluate and expand such critiques of finance and its problematic relation to sustainability.

On the other hand, however, finance increasingly likes to portray itself as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. The financial services industry has arguably made some efforts to positively contribute to issues such as climate change (e.g. through carbon disclosure), land grab and livelihoods in developing countries (e.g. through the Equator Principles) and environmental protection in more general terms (e.g. through the UN Global Compact). While some might accuse such initiatives as ‘hot air’ or even ‘greenwash’, which often lack real power and impact, there are more concrete efforts to offer sustainable finance solutions, ranging from microfinance to carbon offsetting, from community finance to payments for environmental services. What should we make of this move of finance ‘going green’ and ‘ethical’? What empirical evidence is there to suggest that such finance approaches to solving environmental and social issues are actually working?

Overall, then, we encourage submissions that problematize the relationship between sustainability and finance in its broadest sense. We are not only interested in critiques of current finance approaches to sustainability, but particularly encourage studies of how groups and communities can use money and finance in novel ways to live more sustainable lives. We are hence keen to explore the ways of how finance can make a contribution to another possible world.

For any general enquiry about the conference please contact Ann-Christine Frandsen. Any specific questions related to one of the streams each please contact relevant convenor

Organising committee: (Alphabetic order)
Professor Steffen Böhm
Professor Christian de Cock
Dr Ann-Christine Frandsen
Dr Jason Glynos
Dr Pik Liew
Dr Sumohon Matilal
Chloe Warren – Marketing Officer, EBS

Organiser: Ann-Christine Frandsen Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester Campus, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK

Phone: +44 (0)1206 87 869 809


To find out more about Essex Business School visit:

In Collaboration with

Thomas Bay, Stockholm University


D. Forslund and T. Bay, (2009). ‘The eve of critical finance studies’.  Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization. Vol. 9(4), pp. 285-299.

M. Foucault, (1981). ‘The Order of Discourse’ (Inaugural Lecture at the College de France, given 2 December, 1971). In R. Young (ed), Untying the Text: a Post-Structuralist Reader.  London: Methuen, 1981, pp. 48-78.

Dr Steffen Böhm | Professor in Management and Sustainability | Essex Business School | University of Essex | Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK | Rm 5NW.4.4 | Tel. +44(0)1206 87 3843 |


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