The Moral Economy of Markets: Constituting and Resisting Relations of Power (2018-2019)


The creation of capitalist markets has been, and continues to be, a transformative process, involving the displacement of peoples from their homelands as well as the disruption of traditional norms, cultures and institutions – creating opportunities for some while discarding others to the margins. Such markets have brought disparate worlds together across geographies, identities and sociocultures, linking projects of market-driven modernization in intimate ways.

Various manifestations of the ideology of free trade have led to the emergence of massively unequal states of development and power, which has locked in the advantages of developed (rich and powerful) states, while changing the rules of the game for vulnerable populations across the globe.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project will explore experiences and narratives especially of those thrown into various states of vulnerability, objectification and precarity by the voracious spread of market logic. Importantly, it also focuses on the ways in which individuals and communities speak up, resist and organize with and against various manifestations of market logic in their everyday lives.

In order to explore the ordering and disordering effects of modern market systems on vulnerable populations, the team will track capitalist markets’ emergence and deployment, while also stressing their historical circumstances, connected histories and the complex power modalities that precede, develop along with or live outside of markets. This approach seeks to open up conversations about how capitalist markets may work to target particular peoples but oftentimes work within preexisting conditions of vulnerability.

In particular, the team will examine the following key questions:

  • How do vulnerable populations reconfigure territories and lives with and against the incursions of marketizations and what can be learned from their experiences?
  • In what ways do individuals and communities navigate, operate outside of and/or defy the market’s system of dependence and precarity to find creative means of resilience, sustainability and wellbeing?
  • What lessons might be gleaned from modes of persistence, resilience and resistance that inform responses to planetary disasters, escalating inequalities, the disintegration of traditional communities, the expulsions of peoples and species and the deadening of land and seas?
  • What alternative narratives exist that may point the way toward a more equitable, just and sustainable future? And what might the role of markets be in this future?

Anticipated Outcomes

Preparatory work for an anthology for public and scholarly use; weekend seminar series on models of resilience; interdisciplinary symposium on experiences of resistance among disempowered peoples; publications in peer-reviewed journal; interactive website featuring educational resources, discussion forums, links to partner organizations and initiatives and general background information


Fall 2018 – Summer 2019

  • Fall 2018: Lab kick-off with series of full-team meetings in order set up team structure and foci of research; develop framework for research on identified communities; organize public events with lab participants and guest speakers; develop initial website design
  • Spring 2019: Continue research with partners; host second public event; select students for summer travel; develop and launch website; write-up findings for publication and poster presentations
  • Summer 2019: Selected students travel for on-site research with partners; finalize research findings; submit symposium papers for publication in special journal; add summer research content to website

This Team in the News

Moral Economy of Markets Kicks Off Spring Lecture Series with Talks on Climate Change and Global Indebtedness

Meet the Members of the 2018-19 Student Advisory Council

Old world map

Team Leaders

  • Michaeline Crichlow, Arts & Sciences-African and African American Studies
  • Dirk Philipsen, Sanford School of Public Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Aaron Cohen, Public Policy Studies-AM
  • Niranjana Menon, Analytical Political Econ - AM
  • Prasanna Malavika Rajagopalan, Master of Engineering Mgmt-MEG
  • Rachel Wall, Public Policy Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Kathryn Howley, Economics (BS), Global Health (AB2)
  • Alexander Martin, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Hira Shah, Political Science (AB)
  • Allayne Thomas
  • Xiangyu Zheng

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Christine Folch, Arts & Sciences-Cultural Anthropology
  • Anne-Maria Makhulu, Arts & Sciences-Cultural Anthropology
  • Jay Pearson, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Gunther Peck, Arts & Sciences-History
  • Elizabeth Shapiro, Nicholas School of the Environment