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How can we work together to promote better cultural understanding worldwide?

Qais Akbar Omar (GRS’16), a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program, has published a much-praised memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story. He recalls how the violence and tumult of civil war jolted his family, who, despite losing relatives, their home, and possessions, continued to nurture his wish to attend a university.

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Plastic Money: Constructing Markets for Credit Cards in Eight Postcommunist Countries

In the United States, we now take our ability to pay with plastic for granted. Yes, building credit card markets requires solutions to difficult puzzles. In countries without a history of economic stability, how can banks learn to select reliable cardholders? How do markets convince people to pay with cards and make card acceptance appealing to retailers?

Plastic Money tells the story of how banks overcame these and other quandaries as they constructed markets for credit cards in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Russian, Ukraine, China and Vietnam in the two decades following the fall of communism. We know a lot about how markets work once they are built, but this book explains how markets are engineered from the ground up—by selecting key players, ensuring cooperation, and providing conditions for the valuation of a product. Drawing on extensive interviews and fieldwork, the authors chronicle how banks overcame these hurdles and generated a desire for their new product in the midst of a transition from communism to capitalism. Plastic Money chronicles an intriguing chapter in the global spread of the credit card concept, and of consumer culture more generally.

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