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Accepted Paper:

Coercive Political Economies, the Anthropology of Risk and Social Financing. Ethnographic notes from North India (Rajasthan)  

Authors:

Lucia Michelutti (University College London)
Tommaso Sbriccoli (University of Siena)

Paper short abstract:

The paper asks what does a cashless economy look like in settings where informal/criminal economies are rampant and cash dependent? What are the risks associated with social financing in such setting? In answering these questions we engage with classical anthropological discussions of risk.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on recent research on the modus operandi of systems of bossism across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Michelutti et al 2018) and a collaboration with an Fin-tech/social enterprise the paper explores how social financing works in coercive political economies in North India. Moneylending, usury and extortion are the building blocks of systems of power often called 'Mafia Raj'(the rule of mafia or the rule of gangsters. The paper shows how the dynamics of such economies are largely ignored by new digital social financial models whose aim is to promote rural prosperity across South Asia (in particular in India). Importantly vernacular evaluations of credit risk are not taken into consideration and integrated in statistical centered credit rating tools. The paper asks what does a cashless economy look like in settings where informal/criminal economies are rampant and cash dependent? What are the risks (for lender and borrowers) associated with social financing in such setting? In answering these questions we put into dialog classical anthropological discussions of risk with the ethnography of 'the digital finance turn' in rural Rajasthan and beyond.

Panel P057
Digital encounters, cashless cultures: Ethnographic perspectives on the impact of digital finance on economic communities