Yichen Rao

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10380

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Rao, Yichen (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Financial Cyborgs: Money, Desire, and Machinic Lives in Digital China"

This book focuses on ordinary Chinese people’s desires and desperations under the rapid penetration of financial technologies. From 2012, thousands of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms, representing China’s ‘internet finance’ industry, shaped Chinese people’s financial lives. The platforms thrived through credit expansions and money schemes that rode on the desires, anxieties, and dreams of lenders and borrowers in the names of financial inclusion and financial innovation. Millions of middle-class investors poured their life’s savings into these financial machines expecting high returns, while millions of precarious migrant workers, micro-entrepreneurs and jobless people lived on predatory credit applications fueled by middle-class investors. The rapid expansion of these platforms, without proper regulations, cultivated the perfect environment for the growth of risk and failure. Between 2014 and 2020, most of these platforms have collapsed, causing millions of Chinese investors to lose investments worth about 130 billion dollars. The book asks why people live their financial lives on such platforms and how their money desires were shaped through the cybernetic human-machine assemblage. It proposes the concept of a ‘financial cyborg’ to renew anthropological understandings of the short-circuited, embodied connections between people and machines that brewed reproductive data capitalization in contemporary social organisms.