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Turning a blind eye: the complicit trespassing of ‘Chinese walls’ in financial institutions in New York

Peluso, Daniela (2020) Turning a blind eye: the complicit trespassing of ‘Chinese walls’ in financial institutions in New York. Critique of Anthropology, 40 (4). pp. 438-454. ISSN 0308-275X. E-ISSN 1460-3721. (doi:10.1177/0308275X20959421) (KAR id:75625)


This article examines the ways in which ‘Chinese walls’ – that is, information barriers within financial institutions – are constituted and subverted by acts of trespass within large investment banking firms in New York. While Chinese walls positively serve to prevent corruption and fraud, they simultaneously entice legal, semi-legal and illegal forms of trespassing. My analysis shows that some trespassing is based on non-verbalised and embodied exchanges of information that are not in and of themselves illegal. Referred to as playing ‘the game’, the result of these forms of trespass is that the Chinese wall becomes an ‘effect’ or fiction. At other times, trespassing can cause inconvenient suspicion, encouraging those who operate amidst these walls to participate strategically in various aspects of willful blindness. Together, these examples reveal the conceptual and material relationships between ‘seeing’ and ‘knowing’, thereby highlighting the complexity of information flows in financial institutions and demonstrating how the critical regulation of financial capitalism is sometimes weakened.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0308275X20959421
Uncontrolled keywords: finance; financial regulation; knowledge; capitalism, non-knowledge; willful blindness; visuality; silos
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1 United States local history
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: [37325] UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Daniela Peluso
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2019 22:20 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 16:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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