Drawing upon their joint fieldwork, the authors cast this book as a conversation involving themselves, a Colombian rural people, and the writings of past economists. In their view, the material practices of the rural folk constitute a house model of the economy, and the Colombian voices provide a window on prior European fold conversations about the house. The house and the corporation have been the principal modes of material organization in Western life: the former is older, but the latter now predominates. The authors suggest, through use of the Colombian conversations, that textualists of the past transformed and inscribed similar folk voices for their emerging theories of the corporation and the market. They argue that economic knowledge is not simply the product of a scientific community but is often appropriated from folk practices. By situating the knowledge gained from fieldwork within their own traditions, and by using that knowledge to reflect upon the origins of contemporary wisdom, the book implicates the modern-day ethnographer, rural folk, and economist as participants in a long conversation.
'This book deserves to become recognized as the finest achievement so far in the field of economic anthropology: the sort of landmark volume which has become regrettably scarce in the expanded lists of this decade. Conversations in Columbia is a wonderful synthesis of oral investigations and literate scholarship which restores intellectual integrity to the field of economic anthropology and deserves to set its agenda for years to come.' Keith Hart, University of Cambridge