The Indebted Woman

A presentation with Isabelle Guérin to talk about their new book: The Indebted Woman: Kinship, Sexuality, and Capitalism 

Introduced and moderated by Bill Maurer, Anthropology, UCI and IMTFI Director


Women, and particularly poor women, have become essential cogs in the wheel of financialized capitalism. Globally, women are responsible for managing household debt, and that debt has exploded over the last decade, reaching an all-time high after the COVID-19 pandemic. Across various categories of loans, including subprime lending, microcredit policies, and consumer loans, as well as rent and utilities, women are overrepresented as clients and managers, and are being enfolded into the system. The Indebted Woman discusses the crucial yet invisible roles poor women play in making and consolidating debt and credit markets. Isabelle Guérin, Santosh Kumar, and G. Venkatasubramanian spent over two decades observing a credit market that specifically targets women in the Indian countryside of east-central Tamil Nadu. They found that paying off debts required labor, frequently involved sexual transactions, and shaped women's bodies and subjectivities. Bringing together ethnography, statistical surveys, and financial diaries, they offer for the first time a comprehensive theory for this sexual division of debt that goes far beyond the Indian case, exposing the ways capitalism transforms womanhood and how this transformation in turn fuels capitalism.

About the authors

Isabelle Guérin is Senior Research Fellow at the French Institute of Research for Sustainable Development, and Associate at the French Institute of Pondicherry.
Santosh Kumar is a part-time researcher and founder and head of the Mithralaya School of music, dance, and arts.
G. Venkatasubramanian has been a sociologist and Research Fellow at the French Institute of Pondicherry for the past thirty-five years.

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