Repaying the Debts of the Dead

Kinship, Microfinance, and Mortuary Practice on the Paraguayan Frontier

in Social Analysis
View More View Less
  • 1 Australian National University caroline.schuster@anu.edu.au
Restricted access

Abstract

Microcredit loans—most famously systems of group-based borrowing—are a key tool in global economic development frameworks. Building outward from microcredit programs in Paraguay, I explore the discontinuous materialities of both kin- and debt-based obligations, especially at their intersection. I argue that borrowers feel the life span of debts most acutely when mortuary practices anchored in kinship ties are bound up with the task of taking on the financial obligations of the dead. This analysis shows how the bonds between kinship, death, and indebtedness go beyond analogy, for collective debt is not ‘like’ a kinship relationship. Instead, microcredit social collateral provides a means for people to deal with the broader issues affecting the life span of individuals, objects, and commitments, as well as the human stakes involved with obligation.

Contributor Notes

Caroline E. Schuster is a Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. She researches debt, development, and gender in Latin America. Her recent book, Social Collateral: Women and Microfinance in Paraguay’s Smuggling Economy (2015), tracks the politics of interdependency in debt relations.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

  • Akin, David, and Joel Robbins, eds. 1999. Money and Modernity: State and Local Currencies in Melanesia. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bloch, Maurice, and Jonathan Parry. 1982. “Introduction: Death and the Regeneration of Life.” Pp. 144 in Death and the Regeneration of Life, ed. Maurice Bloch and Jonathan Parry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cardozo Ocampo, Mauricio. 1975. “El angelito y el angeloro.” [The Little Angel and the Angel Festival] ABC Color, 16 March.

  • Céspedes, Roberto L. 2004. “Familias en Paraguay: Análisis Sociohistórico de Estructuras Familiares Y Pobreza.” [Families in Paraguay: Socio-historical Analysis of Family Structures in Poverty] Familia y Pobreza en el Paraguay: Resultado de Investigaciones [Family and Poverty in Paraguay: Research Results]. Asunción: Serie Investigaciones–Población y Desarollo, (UNFPA)-ADEPO.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Céspedes, Roberto L. 2006. “Estructura Familiar en Paraguay (1982–2002).” [Family Structure in Paraguay (1982–2002)] Revista Paraguaya de Sociología 43, no. 125–126: 5166.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chu, Julie Y. 2010. Cosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Elyachar, Julia. 2005. Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development, and the State in Cairo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Franklin, Sarah, and Susan McKinnon. 2001a. “Introduction: Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies.” Pp. 125 in Franklin and McKinnon 2001b.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Franklin, Sarah, and Susan McKinnon, eds. 2001b. Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • González Torres, Dionisio M. 1980. Folklore Del Paraguay [Paraguayan Folklore]. Asunción: Editorial Comuneros.

  • Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House.

  • Graeber, David. 2012. “On Social Currencies and Human Economies: Some Notes on the Violence of Equivalence.” Social Anthropology 20, no. 4: 411428.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guyer, Jane I. 2012. “Obligation, Binding, Debt and Responsibility: Provocations about Temporality from Two New Sources.” Social Anthropology 20, no. 4: 491501.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hart, Keith. 2000. “Kinship, Contract, and Trust: The Economic Organization of Migrants in an African City Slum.” Pp. 176193 in Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations, ed. Diego Gambetta. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Iván Bondar, César. 2012. “Angelitos: Altares y entierros domésticos. Corrientes (Argentina) y Sur de la Región Oriental de la República del Paraguay.” [Angelitos: Altars and Domestic Burials. Corrientes (Argentina) and the Southern and Eastern Regions of the Republic of Paraguay] Revista Sans Soleil: Estudios de la imagen 4, no. 1: 140167.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • James, Deborah. 2014. “‘Deeper into a Hole?’ Borrowing and Lending in South Africa.” Current Anthropology 55, no. S9: 1729.

  • Karim, Lamia. 2011. Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Keane, Webb. 2001. “Money Is No Object: Materiality, Desire, and Modernity in an Indonesian Society.” Pp. 6590 in The Empire of Things: Regimes of Value and Material Culture, ed. Fred R. Myers. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keating, Christine, Claire Rasmussen, and Pooja Rishi. 2010. “The Rationality of Empowerment: Microcredit, Accumulation by Dispossession, and the Gendered Economy.” Signs 36, no. 1: 153176.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khandker, Shahidur R. 2005. “Microfinance and Poverty: Evidence Using Panel Data from Bangladesh.” World Bank Economic Review 19, no. 2: 263286.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Klima, Alan. 2002. The Funeral Casino: Meditation, Massacre, and Exchange with the Dead in Thailand. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Kopytoff, Igor. 1986. “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process.” Pp. 6494 in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marx, Karl. 1993. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. 3. Trans. David Fernbach. New York: Penguin Classics.

  • McKinnon, Susan. 2001. “The Economies in Kinship and the Paternity of Culture: Origin Stories in Kinship Theory.” Pp. 277301 in Franklin and McKinnon 2001b.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moodie, Megan. 2008. “Enter Microcredit: A New Culture of Women’s Empowerment in Rajasthan?American Ethnologist 35, no. 3: 454465.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moodie, Megan. 2013. “Microfinance and the Gender of Risk: The Case of Kiva.org.” Signs 38, no. 2: 279302.

  • Parry, Jonathan, and Maurice Bloch, eds. 1989. Money and the Morality of Exchange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Pedrozo, Mariano C. 2003. La Religiosidad Popular Paraguaya y la Identidad Nacional [Paraguayan Popular Religiosity and National Identity]. Asunción: Imprenta Salesiana.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peebles, Gustav. 2010. “The Anthropology of Credit and Debt.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 225240.

  • Pitt, Mark M., Shahidur R. Khandker, and Jennifer Cartwright. 2006. “Empowering Women with Micro Finance: Evidence from Bangladesh.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 54, no. 4: 791831.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rabossi, Fernando. 2003. En las calles de Ciudad del Este: Una etnografía del comercio de frontera. Asunción: Centro de Estudios Antropológicos de la Universidad Católica.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roy, Ananya. 2010. Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development. London: Routledge.

  • Roy, Ananya. 2012. “Subjects of Risk: Technologies of Gender in the Making of Millennial Modernity.” Public Culture 24, no. 1: 131155.

  • Rubin, Gayle. 1975. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.” Pp. 157210 in Toward an Anthropology of Women, ed. Rayna R. Reiter. New York: Monthly Review Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sahlins, Marshall D. 2011a. “What Kinship Is (Part One).” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (n.s.) 17, no. 1: 219.

  • Sahlins, Marshall D. 2011b. “What Kinship Is (Part Two).” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (n.s.) 17, no. 2: 227242.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schuster, Caroline E. 2014. “The Social Unit of Debt: Gender and Creditworthiness in Paraguayan Microfinance.” American Ethnologist 41, no. 3: 563578.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schuster, Caroline E. 2015. Social Collateral: Women and Microfinance in Paraguay’s Smuggling Economy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Weiner, Annette B. 1976. Women of Value, Men of Renown: New Perspectives in Trobriand Exchange. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 42 42 7
Full Text Views 8 8 1
PDF Downloads 8 8 1