Abstract

This review essay takes a synoptic view of the ethnographic record concerning the long-standing and cross-cultural associations between money and dirt. In questioning why this association crops up as often as it does, I turn to the anthropological literature on the study of metaphor and metonym. By doing so, I offer a reinterpretation of the money form, pointing out that dirt—as a transgressive mediator between discrete realms—is itself a cross-cultural trope that is often intimately tied to ideas and rituals of social reproduction and fertility. I suggest that the widespread denigration of money as dirty may serve as a sort of economic regulatory mechanism, which aims to reinvigorate money’s potential fertility when this latter has become sterile due to alleged acts of anti-social exchange or non-exchange.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1518
Print ISSN
0003-5491
Pages
pp. 1229-1255
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-31
Open Access
No
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