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Accepted Paper:

The temporary possession of debt -- exploring debt as gift/commodity in the Mongolian countryside  
Hedwig Waters (Palacky University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how residents of a remote Mongolian township are navigating protracted formal bank indebtedness through an explosion of local gift-economy-esque relations of lending. As bank interest pressure mounts, however, so does the financialization of these gift-like lending networks.

Paper long abstract:

In his 2010 review, Peebles notes that historical ethnographic work on the credit/debt dyad has frequently distinguished between the terms based on the evaluation of credit as beneficial and debt as burdensome. However, in the remote Mongolian countryside town of Khalkhgol, residents do not morally distinguish between the terms of loans (credit) and debt, but rather along a spectrum within each term—both loans and/or debt can be locally sanctioned or unsanctioned (Roitman 2003) based on their social circumstances. Inspired by Robbins' revisitation of the gift/commodity dyad (2008), I thus discuss how contemporary Khalkhgol residents participate in multiple moral forms of loans/debts that construct a gift/commodity spectrum differentiated through mutual social recognition (also Graeber 2011). Consequently, residents are not responding to increasingly pervasive formal bank indebtedness by limiting lending, but by openly engaging in a plethora of bank and kinship-based loaning that moves the limited pool of money around in the community, building social relations, whilst temporarily deferring the community members' bank debts. This 'temporary possession' of money/debt (Empson 2014) has resulted in novel arrangements like the inclusion of interest into forms of social lending—not out of a motivation of individual advantage, but to contribute to social harmony in an economically beleaguered township. This paper thus contributes to the panel's investigation of emerging financial regimes and the movement of money by exploring how remote residents are reinterpreting the increased mobility of finance/bank wealth by appropriating its circulation into community-based channels and moralities.

Panel P010
Moving money and everyday life - understanding debt and the digitalization of credit [Anthropology of Economy Network]
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -