The sociality of the wage : money rhythms, wealth circulation, and the problem with cash on the Zimbabwean-South African border

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While wage labour and money have received much anthropological attention, the same cannot be said of wages themselves – actual banknotes and coins distributed in workforces. This article traces wages' social productivity among farm workers on the Zimbabwean-South African border. In this migrant-labour setting, money's form matters. Because currency objects are physically the same, it is difficult for workers to store them in an insecure environment, leading them to turn to one another. As they manage their earnings, workers attempt to establish themselves as social persons while maintaining future options in uncertain circumstances. Workforce ties both shape and are constituted by flows of cash and the rhythms and circuits of the wage. Seen in terms of form, wages are highly personal – the very stuff of sociality.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-130
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014