Dr. Jon Schubert (University of Basel): Magical math hand waving: making evidence for the future in commercial risk forecasting.

Öffentlicher Vortrag im Rahmen des Forschungskolloquiums Ethnologie

Datum: 6. Dezember 2022
Zeit: 16.15 Uhr bis 18.00 Uhr
Ort: Universität Luzern, Raum 4.B02

Commercial risk forecasting is an economic growth sector, providing specialised analysis to clients ranging from insurance, banking, extractive industries, government and defence, logistics, to INGOs, in order to help them mitigate risk’ to their ventures, investments, and personnel. Anthropologists have shown growing interest in the pricing of risk in finance, or the narratives of risk and reward that underpin investment decisions. This paper, in turn, investigates the technocratic alchemy that transforms open-source intelligence into commercially relevant risk forecasts. Based on five years of work experience as ‘Senior Africa Analyst’ at a commercial intelligence provider, I explore the social practices through which risk-relevant events are selected, processed, published as qualitative risk briefs, and finally assigned quantitative risk scores. Understanding the processes that construct the evidence that is at the heart of commercial futurology sheds new light on the importance of knowledge-based practices behind strategic decisions of the actors of global capitalism.

Jon Schubert is SNF Eccellenza Professor in Critical Urbanisms, University of Basel. His research focuses on the social life of infrastructures, the impact of extractive industries on African polities, authoritarian politics, and urban development in times of climate crisis, mainly through the lens of cities in Angola and Mozambique. His current SNF-funded project, PRECURBICA, centres African actors on the same analytical plane as the ‘global’ urban planners and policymakers that typically dominate debates about climate risk and urban adaptation, and seeks to uncover strategies of living and making the city in the face of looming climate crisis, and learn from these. He is the author of Working the System: A Political Ethnography of the New Angola (Cornell University Press 2017), a co-editor of the International Africa Institute’s book series ‘Politics and Development in Contemporary Africa’ and a member of the editorial collective at Allegra Lab.