Hot money, cold beer

Navigating the vanilla and rosewood export economies in northeastern Madagascar

by ANNAH ZHU

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Since 2000 northeastern Madagascar's subsistence‐based communities have registered record profits thanks to a boom in vanilla and rosewood exports. Yet, rather than saving or investing these returns, much of the local earnings were spent in “hot money” sprees on cold beer, gambling, and other forms of immediate consumption. Far from being illogical or unproductive, hot‐money spending and other practices associated with export economies help local communities navigate the volatility of global markets and domesticate foreign demands. Although these tactics come from the margins of global capitalism, they represent an acute cultural expression of some of the most sophisticated dynamics found at its core.

A rural Malagasy village in June 2015. It receives intermittent influxes of cash thanks to a booming market in vanilla and rosewood, but there are few opportunities for investment. The nearest bank is days away.
A rural Malagasy village in June 2015. It receives intermittent influxes of cash thanks to a booming market in vanilla and rosewood, but there are few opportunities for investment. The nearest bank is days away. (Annah Zhu)