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.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1229-1255
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.