Date of Degree


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Marc Edelman

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


money, value, hoarding, soy, democracy, Argentina


Argentina’s economy has undergone a profound transformation over recent decades from beef and wheat to soybeans and derivative products as the country’s main export commodity and source of foreign exchange. The dissertation traces this shift against the historical backdrop of the country’s peculiar class, territorial, and state formations as the only Latin American nation where agrarian reform has been altogether absent. This perspective on Argentina’s experience with the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture reveals it as an expansive project in which the U.S. dollar figures as an instrument of pacification and acquiescence to agribusiness hegemony. Amid an early twenty-first century commodities boom and leftward regional political shift, leadership of this soy model and the forms of wealth redistribution it enables became the terrain of a “cultural battle” between the state-making project of successive Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations (2003-15) and reorganized agribusiness actors.

Drawing on thirteen months of fieldwork in Buenos Aires, the dissertation examines a resulting set of struggles over hoarding various forms of monetary, agricultural, and symbolic wealth in relation to conflicting visions for Argentina’s long and uneven democratic transition since the end of the last dictatorship in 1983. Tracing the trajectory of a network of activist experts as they interfaced with global governance bodies to operationalize controls on access to dollars, the dissertation shows the Argentine state to be a site of protracted contention over the capture and redistribution of rent money. It chronicles an experiment in monetary governance that mobilized novel forms of taxation and border-making practices, and activated rival conceptions of civil society and the public sphere, political subjectivities and human knowledge. In doing so, this dissertation explains how money power becomes a site of political struggle between capital and landed property that shapes social and cultural life in contemporary Argentina.

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