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


Title Dr First name Marek Last name Mikuš
Institution Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology City Halle Country DE


Title Dr First name Irene Last name Sabaté
Institution name University of Barcelona City Barcelona Country ES


Panel title

Contesting Household Debt: Politics, Infrapolitics, and the Political Economy of Debtor-Creditor Relations

Panel abstract

With the intensification of financialized extraction, we see an unprecedented politicization of the debts of households and a questioning of received wisdom about debt and finance. New social movements and political parties target predatory and exploitative lending practices, such as foreign-currency loans or subprime mortgages, as well as brutal debt enforcement practices. The sheer necessity of incurring huge debts to access vital goods and services like housing and education is also denounced. As such, these novel politicizations of debt and finance reflect concerns with future generations' well-being and articulate visions of a fairer and less exploitative future. The emerging anthropological literature about these contestations of household debt has so far focused on a small number of highly visible anti-debt movements in Western Europe and North America. It has privileged emancipatory ideologies and discourses where critical academic analysis and movements' frameworks overlapped. Concerning movements' practices, research covered especially radical efforts to undermine the hegemonic morality of debt. This panel welcomes contributions on full range of debt contestations: from radical emancipatory movements demanding debt cancellation, through those with reformist and/or conservative agendas, to everyday infrapolitics of debt. Instead of expecting highly developed, coherent ideological formulations, we look at these contestations as embedded in wider hegemonic struggles, and hence likely to be internally varied and incoherent. We encourage analyses that capture the political economy of debt contestations alongside their ideologies and trace their mutually constitutive relationships with creditor practices, regulatory frameworks, and housing regimes in varied settings shaped by processes of uneven development.

IUAES Commission

IUAES Commission on Global Transformations and Marxian Anthropology