Events Calendar
FIMS Homecoming Human Library
September 23, 2022

Inscribing creditability: finance, letter-writing manuals...

Wednesday, November 10, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Zoom (by registration)
Headshot of Alison Hearn.

"Inscribing creditability: finance, letter-writing manuals, and the rise of a plausible public 'self' in the long 18th century"

Presented by Alison Hearn as part of the FIMS Seminar Series 2021/2022.

Everyone is welcome. To receive the Zoom link, please register with Karen Kueneman at

Abstract: This presentation comprises the first chapter of a book project entitled Reputational Capital: An episodic history, which focuses on the ways mediated forms of self-presentation and reputation-seeking have functioned within, against, and as foundational to capitalist economies of credit and debt over the past three centuries. The talk provides a pre-history to our current economic moment, where perpetual networking and self-promotion have become compulsory, enforced as “a survival discipline” (Gilligan & Vischmidt 2015), in the context of deepening economic precariousness and data-extractive platform capitalism (Srnicek 2017, Zuboff 2019), by examining the role of personal and commercial letters informed by didactic letter-writing manuals in Europe and North America during the long 18th century. Commerical letters, and the manuals that informed them, acted as crucial mediators of trust central to the emerging cultures of financialization, trade, credit, and debt at this time. By doing so, they inscribed the performative contours of a deeply gendered and raced (as white) public persona that remains with us to this day - that of the 'honourable merchant' or businessman. Then as now, personal creditability must be carefully crafted and consistently, assiduously performed.

Faculty of Information and Media Studies
Karen Kueneman

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