Spring 2024 Colloquium Series



Event Description

About the talk:

The U.S. dollar in Argentina was slowly but progressively popularized from the 1930s until the second decade of the twenty-first century. Over this period, information about the dollar, formerly of interest exclusively for financial agents or foreign trade experts, began holding political relevance for increasingly broader social groups. At the same time, the dollar was gradually incorporated to the financial repertoires of a growing number of Argentines. Yet without the highly decisive mediations that had preceded this phase, it never would have been possible for social actors with virtually no contact with the financial or exchange market to incorporate the greenback to their savings, investment, loan, and consumer practices. The building of the U.S. dollar as a popular culture artifact made it into a familiar currency, one capable of providing cognitive, emotional, and practical guidance for anyone venturing into an unfamiliar economic universe. Therefore, starting in the 1930s, but especially from the 1950s on, a new relationship between popular culture, financial practices, and the exchange market resulted in the dollar’s increasingly central role in Argentine economy and politics. How did the dollar come to play such a leading role in Argentina? What cultural, economic, and political processes made the U.S. currency dominant on certain domestic markets? How did the dollar-peso exchange rate become an everyday part of life, something nearly everyone follows? In other words, how precisely did this global currency become a local currency on the other end of the Americas? These are some of the questions that our book addresses. For some time, the global expansion of the U.S. currency and its influence on the economic dynamics of different regions was understood as a natural offshoot of America’s predominance in the world economy. However, as the case of Argentina reveals, this process is more complex and, more importantly, exceeds geopolitics. While the dollar is, in fact, a global currency anchored in many countries, multiple articulations of local history, economy, and culture have allowed this grafting. By offering a new lens on the dollar, our book examines another dimension of the economic and political predominance of the United States, telling the story of the greenback as a popular currency outside its home country’s borders.

About the speakers:

Mariana Luzzi

Mariana Luzzi is a researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) and Associate Professor of Sociology at the Interdisciplinary School of Advanced Social Studies (EIDAES), University of San Martín (Argentina). She is author of Réinventer le marché? Les clubs de troc face à la crise en Argentine (L'Harmattan, 2003) and co-author of Rompecabezas. Transformaciones de la estructura social argentina (Ediciones UNGS-Biblioteca Nacional, 2008) and The Dollar: How the US Dollar Became a Popular Currency in Argentina (University of New Mexico Press, 2023) (originally published in Spanish as El dólar. Historia de una moneda Argentina (1930-2019) (Crítica, 2019). She has also published several articles on the sociology of money, including papers on economic crisis and alternative currencies in Argentina.





Ariel Wilkis received a PhD from EHESS (Paris). He is a professor at Universidad de San Martin, dean in its School of Interdisciplinary Advanced Social Studies, and a researcher at CONICET. His research interests include money and morality, social and cultural history of global currencies, relations between sovereign and ordinary debts, and the social and political experience of inflation. He is the author of Las Sospechas Del Dinero (Paidos, 2013), The Moral Power Of Money (Stanford UP, 2017) and coauthor of The Dollar: How the US Dollar Became a Popular Currency in Argentina (University of New Mexico Press, 2023). His book Moral Power of Money won the Honorable Mention in the best book award of the Economic Sociology Section, American Sociological Association (2018).

Ariel Wilkis

Co-Sponsored with the Department of Anthropology