The Storm We Call Dollars: Determining Value and Belief in El Salvador and the United States

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Essay Excerpt

As a first take, these interpretations would seem plausible (if not also desirable in some instances) and lend meaningful shape to an otherwise open ensemble of events. The rhetorical frames that I have provisionally deployed draw upon a host of categorical distinctions frequently made by scholars across the humanities and social scientists, in particular: past and present, subject and object; economics and culture, meaning and matter. Each of these dyads is also substantiated in practice through the contemporary disciplinary divisions of academic labor. Obviously, precise distinctions are necessary for any kind of inquiry, analysis, presentation, and critique; however, it is also requisite at the same time to examine the determination of forms and categories so as to avoid turning change into stasis and relational interaction into seemingly separate, natural, and eternal things. To better understand the Banquito's collapse and Agricola's arrival in the pueblo and to understand, furthermore, not only what life is like for Intipuquenos amidst these events but also some of the possible futures that appear for people living in both El Salvador and the United States, this article draws upon theories of value and meaning that resist contemporanacademic disciplinary divisions and strong either/or distinctions. My analysis moves amidst spatio-temporal relations spread across both countries over the 20th century, exploring how and why. during the 1980s and 1990s, particular forms such as the U.S. dollar and Salvadoran colon, categories such as wealth, the practical habit of trust, and social relations of exploitation, domination, and control have all emerged from, become congealed in, reacted back upon, and also, sometimes, dissolved into, what is inherently a geohistorically open totality of both possibility and necessity. The metaphor of a storm best captures this century-long process of restructuring enveloping Intipuca and Washington, D.C., El Salvador, and the United States. Before entering this storm, I would like to be more precise about the manner of discursive titration that thisarticle develops and explain how it explicitly draws upon theories of two internally related precipitates: belief and value. (434)

About the Author

David Pedersen is a historically-minded sociocultural anthropologist (with a joint degree in both disciplines). His research has been concerned with understanding better the material and meaningful reorganization of the hemisphere of the Americas, especially with regard to the influence of the United States. In this endeavor, he draws on and contributes to interdisciplinary debates around the intersection of anthropology and history as well as scholarship on capitalist value determination and theories of signification or semiotic. His work has concentrated on the country of El Salvador and its historical shift from being organized around the production and export of primary agricultural commodities to a country now almost singularly reliant on the money sent back by a quarter of its population living and working in major US urban areas. He also has explored the transformation of US cities over the same time period as they have shifted from centers of manufacturing to agglomerations of high and low-wage producer and consumer services, the latter sector filled with significant numbers of Salvadoran migrants. His new research project focuses on the production of US military force and the recent ascendance of counter-insurgency and "population-centric" approaches in US warfare. It examines how and why the El Salvador civil war (1980-92) and US involvement in it has provided primary content for a new model of counter-insurgency, nation-building and economic development that is being crafted and applied in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout Latin America.

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