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date: 25 June 2022

Juggling Currencies in Transborder Contextslocked

Juggling Currencies in Transborder Contextslocked

  • Magdalena VillarrealMagdalena VillarrealCIESAS Occidente
  •  and Joshua GreeneJoshua GreeneUniversity of Geneva


Financial practices only partially entail money. People and institutions weave their economic lives intermixing pecuniary but also social, cultural, geographic, moral, and emotional elements. These elements are often knitted together in ways that appear erratic or that only conform to established models in a single dimension, which leaves the analyst ill-informed concerning the workings of finance in everyday life. Fortunately, conceptual tools to go beyond narrow economic perspectives and explore the interaction of the multiple dimensions involved are on the rise.

In this effort, it is critical to explore such dimensions in motion. People act in certain social milieus, push distinct fundamentals, exclude others, do their best to meet specific goals, and prioritize or overlook certain issues. Such actions are framed in what we can call economic exchange “languages” wherein assessments of equivalence are interpreted according to conventional significations. This brings up the notion of currencies, not only those represented in dollars, pesos, or euros, but currencies portraying values in social, symbolic, and cultural terms that embody economic transactions. Currencies flow within specific circuits involving different means of equivalence that entail diverse normative and moral frameworks.

Multiple currencies coexist and interplay in everyday life, and people and institutions are obliged to juggle in order to make do. The allusion to juggling of currencies implies that there are a number of different economic and livelihood circuits that people operate in simultaneously. Some of these circuits involve religion, gender, identity, family, and markets, which operate with distinct criteria. Others involve hard cash or perhaps social and symbolic assets. It is the act of keeping these multiple circuits in motion at the same time that is the juggling of currencies. Juggling currencies is a key to success, however success may be depicted.

Placing the lens on borderlines and transborder crossings is revealing, particularly when the aim is to explore monetary practices and economic lives. It is here that discontinuities, conflicts, and dilemmas become evident. People who are obliged to operate in two or more officially sanctioned monetary currencies, for example, need to be deeply knowledgeable about different normative frameworks and schemes of value equivalences wherein diverse social categories, expectations, and moralities are mobilized. Juggling is the name of the game.


  • Sociocultural Anthropology

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