Juggling with Debt, Social Ties, and Values: The Everyday Use of Microcredit in Rural South India


Guérin, Isabelle. 2014. “Juggling with Debt, Social Ties, and Values: The Everyday Use of Microcredit in Rural South India.” Current Anthropology 55 (9): S40-S50. doi:10.1086/675929.

Author: Isabelle Guérin


Drawing on long-term field engagement with microcredit programs in rural northern Tamil Nadu (South India), in this article I examine how this specific form of debt is used, experienced, signified, and interrelated to other forms of debt. I attempt to define debt from an economic and anthropological perspective and to highlight the diversity of values surrounding debt. Debt has a material value and actively contributes to producing social worth, setting debtors and creditors within local systems of social hierarchy, producing or eroding trust, and inserting people into local networks of wealth distribution, extending dependency and patronage ties. Far from being static, the social significance and regulation of debt are continually discussed and negotiated through practices of juggling sources of indebtedness. Yet owing to its multiple forms, debt is not only a powerful force for the reproduction of power relations but also a potential vehicle for the reconfiguration of forms of dependence. Analyzing practices and processes is essential for understanding the reasons for this ambivalence and how it plays out in specific historical contexts for situated subjects.

Topics: Economies, Gender, Women, Political Economies Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2014

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