From Bodies to Black-Scholes

A Two-day Workshop on Performativity and the Social Studies of Finance


We are now planning the next workshop. Please e-mail Yuval Millo for more details.

Also, take a look at the last workshop’s material


Organized by Daniel Beunza (Columbia U.) and Yuval Millo (LSE)


Columbia Business School, New York, 28-29 April 2008


Social Studies of Finance (SSF) is one of the new and exciting sub-disciplines to have emerged in the social sciences in recent years. SSF, born from the intersection of sociology of science, management and critical accounting offers a new vantage point for the analysis of financial markets and their dynamics.

SSF incorporates into a unified analytical framework the effects that expert bodies of knowledge, such as accounting, financial economics and management, have on the dynamics in financial markets. In addition, SSF pays particular attention to the material and organizational infrastructure that sustains market activity and examines the long-duration process that affect price behavior.

The young field of SSF has contributed to the sociological and management discourse a growing array of analytical notions, such as performativity, materiality of prices and market devices. Yet, so far, the intellectual roots of the field, the epistemological bases of its leading concepts and its methodological emphasis were not explored rigorously.

This workshop is intended to amend this situation and to serve as a close, concentrated look at SSF, and a study of the conceptual and methodological tools that it offers for the student of contemporary financial markets.

Convened by Daniel Beunza from Columbia Business School and Yuval Millo from the London School of Economics, this intensive two-day workshop is aimed at presenting the field and discussing the major concepts it introduces. The workshop is directed at research students and early-career researchers in accounting, finance, management, political science and sociology, who are interested in the study of financial markets from organizational, social and technological (e.g. information systems) perspectives.

The workshop will consist of six sessions, each composed of a presentation of 30 minutes followed by an hour-long extensive discussion. This structure is oriented towards the creation of a useful interaction between the participants' particular research projects and the core ideas of SSF. Hence, in addition to distributed reading material, the participants will be asked to prepare questions for discussion; these will be put in advance in a wiki dedicated to the workshop and serve as a knowledge base.


To allow effective discussion, the group size is limited to 12 participants. The workshop's fee is US$200, which includes meals. To apply for the workshop, please send a CV and a one-page description of your research and how it relates to SSF by February 29th to


The Sessions


Session 1: Market devices

-       Understanding the cockpits of modern markets: the ways in which trading and market analysis environments affect market behavior

-       Technology in markets or 'market technology': how to analyze hybrid networks

-       Is the designer a market participant?


Session 2: The concept of performativity

-       Saying things, writing things and doing things: critical accounting and SSF

-       What happens when things are counter-performative: SSF approach to financial risk management

-       Financial regulation and performativity: who regulates?


Session 3: The materiality of prices

-       From a baboon society to handheld devices: how are prices manufactured?

-       Global microstructures: the role of physical distance and computer-mediated communication in the creation of prices


Session 4: What is SSF?

-       From Sociology of scientific knowledge to SSF

-       Actor-network theory and SSF

-       Experts outside and inside the markets

-       Differences between economic sociology and SSF


Session 5: Methodology

-       SSF and multiple method data collection

-       The challenge of doing multi-site research

-       Ethnography of machines: how to get the devices to talk?


Session 6: Looking ahead

-       New markets or new outlets: the BRIC countries (Brazil Russia, India and China) and the globalization of financial contracts

-       Carbon-trading markets

-       Using SSF outside the markets?