Funny money and political authority in China

This publication workshop will bring together leading and up-and-coming Sinologists from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to focus on the problem of “funny money,” and its effect on political authority in contemporary
China. “Funny” money is money that is non-legal—somehow tainted, but neither clearly illegal nor definitively
legal. Funny money is so important and pervasive in China that it often goes unremarked. Many ordinary
people make their livelihoods transacting in funny money; it lubricates the machinery of state, society, and
the underworld. Funny money is inherently political but it has no specific political orientation. It may, for
instance, be a tool of domination or a tool of resistance to domination. This ambivalence makes funny money
worthy of closer academic scrutiny. This workshop will bring together historians, sociologists, anthropologists,
economists, philosophers, political scientists, and journalists to address one driving question: How do funny
money transactions constitute, undermine, affirm, and/or modify political authority—and whose political
authority? Scholars from these diverse disciplinary perspectives will select, synthesise, and apply the most
useful classical and contemporary theories of money and social power-relations to recent empirical research,
resulting in novel and potentially-disruptive advances to the field of Chinese Studies.

Grant round: 2018


Tom Cliff

School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia & the Pacific

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