Frontier Frenzy: What Might Anthropology Have to Say About the ‘Iron Grip of Finance on the Prostrate Governments of Backward Regions?’

Paul Robert Gilbert//Anthropology//11th of March 2015//3-4pm//Arts C133

Frontier Market Image

This lecture will explore the role that cartographic imaginaries play in attracting and directing foreign investment toward countries that were once placed as members of the ‘Third World’ or ‘Global South,’ but are increasingly recognized as emerging or ‘frontier’ markets. The first part of the lecture will trace innovations in the classificatory regimes of international finance, and the extent to which categories such as ‘BRICs’ and the ‘Frontier Five’ have successfully redrawn the cognitive maps of global powerbrokers. The second half of the lecture will explore the potential of two distinct methodologies for making sense of these cartographic imaginaries and classificatory regimes: firstly, the ‘sociology of quantification,’ which explores the symbolic construction of nation rankings and ratings; and secondly, ethnographic approaches, which provide insights into how a discourse on ‘frontier’ markets can be strategically deployed to either attract investment or discipline ‘the prostrate governments of backward regions.’


Paul Robert Gilbert is a final year PhD student in Social Anthropology, working on the ethnography of finance and extractive industries in the UK and Bangladesh. Before starting his PhD at Sussex, Paul completed an MSc in Ethnobotany at Kent (2010) and a BA in Anthropology (2009) at Durham. He is the convenor of the joint Royal Anthropological Institute/London School of Financial Arts programme on Art, Anthropology and Finance (

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