Get access

The gross domestic person? (Respond to this article at


  • Jane I. Guyer

    1. The author is George Armstrong Kelly Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University. Most of her research career has been spent in the study of livelihoods, money and economic history in West Africa: from household and production at the local level (An African niche economy, 1997) to urban provisioning and currency zones at the regional level (Marginal gains: Monetary transactions in Atlantic Africa, 2004). Over the past 10 years, she has brought perspectives from African Studies to bear on current issues in rapidly changing Western economies: such as visions of the ‘near future’, the rhetoric of economics, the conumer price index (CPI) and the composition of prices.
    Search for more papers by this author


On the cusp of what is widely perceived to be seismic economic change, Fioramonti's analysis of the history and power of the GDP is a provocation to anthropologists to unpack its underlying assumptions about the human dimensions of economic life, and to imagine a different set of assumptions for the future. He depicts the presumed most basic unit for GDP analyses, the household, as a “cage”, where all the relevant economic processes go through monetization and formulaic relationships and aspirations. This paper examines the history of the “person” who is necessarily in a “household”: from the household being tax unit, to a domestic unit, to its currently expanding position as a node for the temporary meeting of varied trajectories of life and flows of varied kinds of value. The paper concludes with the challenge to create new metrics as being a challenge to comparison and analytical acuity, drawing on the anthropological archive.