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Corruption and the Moral Economy of Fraud

Call for Papers

Corruption and the Moral Economy of Fraud

Special Issue of the Journal of Extreme Anthropology

Edited by Tereza Østbø Kuldova, Thomas Raymen & Jardar Østbø

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There is global consensus that corruption is one of the main ills in the globalized world, inhibiting development and preventing the solution of pressing problems. Corruption is also seen a moral failing: former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan saw corruption as ‘evil and insidious’ (United Nations 1997) and Pope Francis stated that corruption is ‘evil’ and that it ‘offends human dignity’ (Francis 2017). Against this unquestionable evil, the remedy implemented worldwide is also moralistic in character – the ethics of transparency, accountability, and openness (Garsten & Jacobsson 2011). But as it has failed to deliver the desired results, we need to look for other ways to understand corruption.

While the solutions to the problems of corruption have been framed in the language of ethics, transparency and accountability - in many ways in the language of ‘audit cultures’, the practices of corruption are themselves underpinned by a moral culture which Whyte and Wiegratz call ‘the moral economy of fraud’ (Whyte & Wiegratz 2016). Not only is this culture profoundly criminogenic; but it is precisely this moral economy of fraud that shapes the emerging global ethics of transparency, audit and compliance.

At the same time, combatting corruption is increasingly relying on datafied knowledge and that which can be quantified and counted. But can everything be made transparent through quantification? Or is it so that many of these approaches fail precisely because they do not take into account the actually existing practices within the moral economy of fraud? While state of the art research on anti-corruption explores the potential of artificial intelligence and big data, new realms of opacity, privacy, and luxury emerge that serve the criminal economies that aim to defy legislation, regulation and technological surveillance. We must therefore think beyond what now appears at the next frontier in combatting corruption and illicit financial flows. We invite critical, qualitative, empirically grounded but also theoretical pieces that can help us shed light on the cultural logic of the shadow practices that defy quantification, and the logic of transparency and audit and on the dynamics of the moral economy of fraud.

The special issue Corruption and the Moral Economy of Fraud invites anthropological and interdisciplinary contributions that offer novel ways of conceptualising and understanding corruption through the lens of moral economies of fraud, as well as contributions that challenge the quantitative and data-driven approaches to fighting corruption. We are particularly interested in particular papers from across anthropology, criminology and area studies.

Among the welcome subjects are:

  • ethnographies of corruption and/or anti-corruption, relating to the discussion of moral economies

  • novel theoretical analyses of the relationship between neoliberalism, corruption and the legitimate and shadow economies

  • critical analyses of anti-corruption policies of nation-states, inter-governmental and supra-national organisations, or individual institutions

  • critical analyses of global freeports, special economic zones and their potential for corruption

  • theoretical and commentary pieces on corruption and political populism

  • analyses which focus on the networks, ‘brokers’ and mediators who perform the actual shadow practices of corruption

Interested contributors are encouraged to submit an abstract of 300 words and a short bio by the 15th of March 2021 to the journal Editor-in-Chief, Tereza Østbø Kuldova,

Deadline for full submissions will be the 1st of August 2021.

Journal of Extreme Anthropology is an international, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary and indexed journal that publishes articles written in the fields of anthropology, social sciences and humanities, specializing in extreme subjects, practices and theory. For submission guidelines, and other details, please visit:


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