Accepted paper:

Actuarial States: traces of risk and security in Paraguay

Author:

Caroline Schuster (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

What traces of the State are left on economic systems developed to bring financial products to the nation's poor? I redirect the focus on processes and categories through which States operate to engage instead with the dynamics of anticipation and hope that underwrite specific cultures of cover.

Paper long abstract:

In 2015 the Central Bank of Paraguay (BCP), in conjunction state-led social welfare programs, rolled out a nationwide "financial inclusion" initiative. The BCP capitalised private ventures that sought to bring financial products and services to the nation's poor. At the heart of this initiative is insurance: everyday risks to health, life, property, and work, recast as matters of market-based actuarial accounting. Anthropologists in the region have approached the question of humans at risk from the vantage of the rights of urban populations challenged by the wider biopolitical imperative to protect life (Biehl 2013; Goldstein 2012). However, ethnographic approaches that focus on the processes and categories through which States operate have not yet engaged with the dynamics of anticipation and hope that underwrite specific cultures of cover. Building on the themes of this panel, this paper asks what 'states of being' beyond the biopolitical might dispose people to buy into new financial regimes, including insurance cover? Is the "economization of life" (Murphy 2017) always and inevitably a project of legibility to the State? This project also experiments with alternative ways to engage with the relentless drive towards legibility at the heart of actuarial sciences. I will present the beginning phases of my collaborative graphic non-fiction project (i.e. comic) that seeks forms of ethnographic representation for "states beyond States."

panel P55
States beyond states