Accepted paper:

Sex and finance: obligation and desire in the regulation of Paraguayan credit economies

Author:

Caroline Schuster (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper tracks erotic economies that generate obligation and desire—themselves key relational dimensions of credit systems. Long-term collaboration with, Luz, a Paraguayan woman who managed her sister’s informal credit business, provoked me to reconsider my own assumptions erotic economies.

Paper long abstract:

Reflecting back on two years of fieldwork on Paraguayan microfinance programs—undertaken from 2006-2015—I am consistently surprised by how these development projects successfully consolidate their focus on women while at the same time bracket and displace sex into the technical realms of demography, law, and health. I suggest that this focus comes at an important cost, particularly to understanding erotic economies that generate obligation and desire—themselves key relational dimensions of credit systems. Building outward from the everyday conditions of indebtedness in a Paraguayan border city, this paper asks two linked sets of questions. First, I query how key aspects of the economy (especially money and credit) are themselves sexed and gendered in anthropological theories of value (cf. Bear et al 2015). Second, I consider the economic dimensions of sex gender systems as they are organized and experienced within financial systems in Paraguay, both in microcredit development loans and informal credit markets. My long-term friendship and research collaboration with, Luz, a Paraguayan woman who managed her sister's informal credit business, provoked me to reconsider my own assumptions erotic economies. I interpret her lesbian kinship affiliations and queer allies in the banking world within the wider thematic of obligation as it is encoded in her financial labor. I suggest that is precisely the embodied and affective dimensions of both obligation *and* desire that challenge easy associations between microfinance and heteronormative sex/gender systems.

panel Ethn02
Sex and the field: sex, power, and the production of anthropological knowledge