News & Events

Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar with Jess Bier (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

1 June 2017 , Department of Geography, room F4.66, 12.00 -13.00

Locating Global Value: National Statistical Infrastructures and Multinational Banks

Global finance is often characterized as a realm that supersedes the nation-state. In contrast, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and document analysis, we show that financial statistics produce specific geographies that are both national and gobalized, and that these are intrinsically related to statistical determinations of value. So global statistics are infused with national valuation techniques of the sort that globalization was supposed to render obsolete.

Statistical infrastructures facilitate the circulation of capital that, with the rise of financialization, has become increasingly central to daily life. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is one of the world’s premier financial monitors, and nations are integral to their classification of multinational banks. We analyze two sets of distinctions in BIS banking statistics: first, between bank nationality and residency, and second, between domestic, international, local, foreign and/or cross-border claims.

These distinctions change depending on who observes them (Esposito 2013) and where they are reported. So, rather than a view from nowhere (Haraway 1988) or a deterritorialized space of flows (Castells 1998), BIS statistics rely upon a grounded view of capital as a substance that flows through discrete passages (P. Peters, Kloppenburg, and Wyatt 2010) or channels (Tsing 2000). The globalization that emerges can be viewed as a form of infrastructural globalism (Edwards 2006) that complexly incorporates the nation-state.


Jess Bier is an assistant professor of urban sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. From 2013-16, she conducted ethnographic research on global financial regulation as a postdoc with Prof. Willem Schinkel's (EUR) ERC-funded Monitoring Modernity project. She obtained her PhD in science and technology studies (Maastricht University, 2014) with Profs. Sally Wyatt (KNAW) and Bas van Heur (VUB), and her MPhil in geography (City University of New York, 2008) with Prof. Marianna Pavlovskaya (CUNY). Jess’s PhD research received the 2016 Maastricht University dissertation prize and her book Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine: How Occupied Landscapes Shape Scientific Knowledge will be published this May (MIT Press, 2017).