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Accepted Paper:

"Nurturing credit": logics and practices of digital money borrowing among Chinese migrant factory workers  
Tom McDonald (The University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows Chinese migrant labourers' attempts to accumulate increasing amounts of credit via online finance platforms, understanding these practices through local ideologies of 'nurturing credit' and revealing the specific monetary repetoirs migrants deploy in the face of financial precarity.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents results from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a small factory on the outskirts of Shenzhen, China, amidst the growing proliferation of digital money platforms within migrant workers' lives.

Specifically, we focus on features that form part of the Zhima Credit platform, offering users access to multiple novel forms of formal credit that act as alternatives to (largely unpopular) credit cards. Migrant labourers are shown to make sense of their ability to successfully accumulate increasing amounts of credit through local ideologies of nurturing, situating these ideals alongside other concepts of nurturing persons (such as kin or friends) which permeate in everyday life.

The nurturance of credit by participants comes to represent more than simply managing debt responsibly, but instead reveals migrant workers desire to enact a very different philosophical understanding of debt. The credit-accumulating practices workers partake in constitute an attempt to rebuke the "economy of interest" that has come to govern modern financialised forms of debt (Graeber, 2011). Somewhat contradictorily, workers' practices of nurturing credit also seek to maintain the possibility of being able to access larger amounts credit if needed, as a safeguard against the precarity of everyday urban life facing low-class migrant workers.

We argue that nurturing credit constitutes a significant way of understanding the specific-and inherently ambivalent-monetary repertoires (Guyer, 2004) and forms of agency migrants seek to deploy in an era of financialisation.

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