By: Besky, Sarah ( . Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 1 (2016): 4–29.


In the context of the Indian tea industry, the article shows how a move to foment a spontaneous relationship between price and knowledge actually requires a great deal of governmental and nongovernmental planning.The article is an account of the Government of India's attempt to 'financialize' tea. It shows how digital technology puts the theories of behavioral economics into action and futures trading requires standardization of price and things. Ideas about the transparency, impartiality, and rationality of digital systems reveal how visions of India’s economic future depend on the elimination of cloistered expertise and its replacement by a distributed, democratic knowledge, acquirable through training rather than apprenticeship. This elimination replaces what I have called the collective, embodied story of price with the enactment of standardized, individualized scenarios. This shift appears to allow numbers to speak for themselves, because participation in their production is radically distributed, while the possible actions taken to produce them are radically limited.

The Indian tea industry reform can be linked to broader discussions of the social contexts of technological change and how they tie in with global trade and finance. It gives a view into the how of financialization – govt and technical steps that precede futures and other derivative products. It shows how disentanglement of commodities at the level of productive infrastructure and reworking of the communication infrastructure of trading, both are required for a shift to transparent, pricing and standardized financialization processes.


Water is a difficult commodity to price. (Refer to networked article here) The article's findings may be relevant to water as a commodity and also to 'Embedded Water' as a tool to monetize the value of virtual water in a product . The difficulty of standardization - of the product, the productive infrastructure and the communication around Water - applies to both. The challenge lies in creating processes, with the aid of modern technology, that help impute a rational, non-manipulable and standardized value to water.


- To study the barriers to commodification and financialisation of virtual water including those in the communication infrastructure of water valuation in production processes. 

- To study the role that technology and communication can play for financialization of virtual water

- To find ways of imputing a price to virtual water (also refer to network paper here)