Reviewer MarekMikus | Review

#371 Debt pathways: centering economics, agency, and contingency in the anthropology of household debt

Coresponding author's contact details

First name Marek Middle name Last name Mikuš
Title Dr. Organization / Institution Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Department n/a
Address Advokatenweg 36 Postal / Zip code 06130 Country DE
E-Mail Hidden Phone number Hidden Presenting author Yes

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Abstract title

Debt pathways: centering economics, agency, and contingency in the anthropology of household debt

Abstract text

Since the Global Financial Crisis, anthropologists have taken an increased interest in the phenomenon of debt. Influential contributions theorized debt as a foundational, transhistorical form of social relationship characterized by systematic exploitation, inequality and violence. When applied to contemporary household debt, this totalizing approach entails an emphasis on its moral and political aspects, a static binary view of participants in debt relations as either net creditors or net debtors, and templates for progressive debt politics based on debtor solidarity and debt refusal. Building on more situated anthropological engagements with debt and my ongoing research on household debt in Croatia, I introduce the concept of debt pathways to draw attention to the varied, processual and ambiguous nature of actually existing household debt relations. Studying debt pathways necessitates three interrelated analytical shifts. First, a closer and deeper engagement with the economics of debt relations is necessary to understand their implications for debtors in terms of exploitation, but also wealth accumulation. Second, we need to pay more attention to how the agency of debtors, interacting with the better recognized structural constraints and opportunities, motivates and shapes their debt pathways. Finally, analysis needs to make room also for contingency at both individual and societal level. Recognizing these dimensions and their interaction is essential for developing a more nuanced and empirically grounded anthropological analysis of the varied and dynamic relations of contemporary household debt, the ways in which people live through and make sense of them, and the implications for their politics vis-à-vis debt.

Conference topic

Panel no. 20 - Contesting Household Debt: Politics, Infrapolitics, and the Political Economy of Debtor-Creditor Relations

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Abstract Review

This abstract was reviewed on 2021-01-05 11:10h by MarekMikus

Reviewer decision