P2-E: Imagining capitalism in transregional fraud schemes

The increase of financial flows between African and Asian countries has also brought about the increase of fraudulent schemes. Since the 2000s, email scams, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes and multi-level marketing schemes (MLMs) have been travelling between both regions. These frauds use the economic infrastructure between Africa and Asia that has been established in the last decades. Moreover, they refer to similar imaginaries of a globalized, middle-class lifestyle – in other words to similar collective fantasies of capitalism – to persuade victims. Based on fieldwork in Ghana, India and Kenya, the project will explore these fraud schemes as travelling models, which both make use of and spread particular understandings of capitalism.

These schemes will be studied by using multiple perspectives: As stories, the schemes make use of globally circulating fantasies of capitalism and adapt these narratives to local contexts. As economic strategy, these schemes allow people that are excluded from global capitalism to partake in it. As travelling model, these frauds spread certain capitalist norms; members of Ponzi schemes and MLMs are asked to transform themselves into business men and their social relationships into business relations. Fraudulent schemes may be a very particular form of transregional, economic interaction between Africa and Asia. Yet they can be used as a lens to explore how actors believe in imaginaries of capitalism, how they desperately want to partake in them and how they carry them from one place to the next.

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