1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Notes Toward an Anthropology of Confidence


“Confidence is the indispensable basis of all sorts of business transactions.  Without it, commerce between man and man, as between country and country, would, like a watch, run down and stop.”
Herman Melville, The Confidence Man

This essay uses confidence as a metric for contemporary capitalism, which relies upon aggressively propertizing, market-centric, individuating, and consumption-oriented epistemologies.  My argument is that consumption often involves:  a) unitary and materialistic theories of economic actors, goods, and services on the one hand; and b) the notion that these actors, goods, and services are not only highly symbolic but also multivalent on the other.   The friction between these ideologies gives shape to discourses of crisis.  Following the work of James Boon, I cross-cut my reading of Herman Melville with selected texts from economics, as well as current journalistic takes on the government shutdown and possible impeding US default.


Reception follows in Brooks Commons, 1st Floor


Event Date: 
Friday, 11 October 2013 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Alexander Dent
Speaker Title: 
Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, The George Washington University