Rationalities and Moral Economies in E

Rationalities and Moral Economies in Illicit Drug Markets

Angus Bancroft

Thursday April 29th 2021 10:00 GMT

Illicit markets, especially drug markets are not simply places of crime and deviance. In this seminar, Angus Bancroft will explore the complex moral economies which govern the use of illicit markets. Particularly with respect to his research on illicit cryptomarkets and how these digital spaces intersect and overlap with “meatspace”.

Inspired by anthropology, Angus argues that these markets involve exchange (especially of knowledge), gifting, reciprocity, trust, morality, and empathy. For these markets to function, there is a profound need for those involved to place trust and faith in their fellow crytomarket users. For these spaces to remain function and (re)producible, they must encourage, nurture, and teach new entrants how the market works, a process which dispels many illusions we may have about illicit moral economies. What emerges is a conflicted moral economy where some seek to turn a quick profit, while others wish primarily to buy for friends or others in their social circles. This goes beyond conventional imaginaries of illicit cryptomarkets where we may envisage participants scrolling through a list of illicit substances before selecting the one that they wish to buy and leaving it there. Rather, there is a whole array of delicate social norms to navigate, and relationships which must be built in order to engage with the market in a holistic way.

This is not to say that these markets have no danger whatsoever. The practices within them may have deeply rooted moral meanings, but they are still broadly considered illicit. There are also scams, hackers, and other threats to contend with. Nevertheless, Angus appeals for us to see them as having their own lifeworld and social ecosystems that go far beyond pejorative everyday constructions of “drug markets”.