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Gender, Mobility and the Financialisation of Development



This article challenges popular claims about the capacity for microfinance to reduce poverty and empower women in the global South. Instead, I posit microfinance as a contradictory development tool, one that creates possibilities for both the contestation and continuation of unequal social relations at multiple scales. The article is divided into two major sections. I begin by examining the assumptions embedded in mainstream financial mappings of global space since the 1980s. In particular, I show how they privilege the transnational mobility of corporate capital and elide the everyday, place-based work of social reproduction. I examine the expansion and commercialisation of microfinance in this context, as an alternative mechanism for enabling poor households to continue meeting their everyday needs by taking on more debt. In the second section, I draw on fieldwork in Andhra Pradesh, India, to show how these interlocking macro/micro financial flows interact with regional social histories to shape and differentiate people's mobility ‘on the ground’ according gender, caste, and class. I conclude by suggesting how a critical geopolitics framework can help formulate new questions about microfinance as a development strategy.
Geopolitics, 15:606–627, 2010
Copyright ©Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1465-0045 print / 1557-3028 online
DOI: 10.1080/14650040903501104
Gender, Mobility and the
Financialisation of Development
Department of Geography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA,, USA
This article challenges popular claims about the capacity for micro-
finance to reduce poverty and empower women in the global
South. Instead, I posit microfinance as a contradictory develop-
ment tool, one that creates possibilities for both the contestation
and continuation of unequal social relations at multiple scales.
The article is divided into two major sections. I begin by examin-
ing the assumptions embedded in mainstream financial mappings
of global space since the 1980s. In particular, I show how they priv-
ilege the transnational mobility of corporate capital and elide the
everyday, place-based work of social reproduction. I examine the
expansion and commercialisation of microfinance in this context,
as an alternative mechanism for enabling poor households to con-
tinue meeting their everyday needs by taking on more debt. In the
second section, I draw on fieldwork in Andhra Pradesh, India, to
show how these interlocking macro/micro financial flows inter-
act with regional social histories to shape and differentiate people’s
mobility ‘on the ground’ according gender, caste, and class. I con-
clude by suggesting how a critical geopolitics framework can help
formulate new questions about microfinance as a development
The last two decades have seen the growing popularity of microfi-
nance as a tool for promoting economic growth, political stability, and
gender equality in developing countries. For example, the UN declared
Address correspondence to Stephen Young, Department of Geography, University of
Washington, Box 353550, Seattle, WA 98122, USA. E-mail:
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 607
2005 the ‘Year of Microfinance’, and Mohammad Yunus, founder of the
Grameen Bank, was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2006. Microfinance
– or microcredit as it was more commonly known in the 1980s – is widely
understood to have risen to prominence in concert with broader shifts in
mainstream development thinking, which saw greater emphasis given to (i)
‘women’s empowerment’ and (ii) ‘grassroots’/community-based initiatives.1
Typically, government agencies or non-profit NGOs would provide credit
and savings facilities to people who did not have access to formal finan-
cial services. A system of ‘joint liability’, in which a group of borrowers is
collectively responsible for each other’s repayments, was used as a substi-
tute for traditional forms of collateral. Women, in particular, were targeted
as loan recipients and still constitute around 80% of borrowers worldwide.2
These small, short-term loans were to be used to develop opportunities
for self-employment, which would in turn enhance their self-sufficiency.
Moreover, the income generated by such enterprises would benefit the
entire family, enabling women to challenge their own subordinate position
within patriarchal households. In this way, microfinance could tap the latent
entrepreneurial talents of poor communities to create a ‘virtuous cycle’ of
women’s empowerment and poverty reduction.3
A growing literature has emerged in development studies, which
constructively engages and critiques this rather sanguine story of social
transformation. Some studies, for example, have tried to assess the extent
to which women’s husbands continue to determine the use of and derive
the benefits from microloans.4Others have debated whether microfinance,
particularly in the absence of other political programmes, actually exac-
erbates tensions within the household and increases rates of domestic
violence.5Some scholars have also pointed to the hierarchies within microfi-
nance groups, which enable some women to dominate social and economic
resources.6Thus, whilst there is evidence of many positive changes resulting
from microfinance programmes, these studies have also drawn attention to
its ‘darker side’.
I seek to expand these critiques by examining microfinance in rela-
tion to broader geopolitical and geoeconomic changes since the Cold War.7
I draw from critical geopolitics work that explores how places and pop-
ulations have been strategically repositioned in relation to the perceived
opportunities or risks they present to global capital flows.8This financial-
isation of space seeks to expand and accelerate the mobility of capital,
enabling information, investment, and investors, to move around the world
more easily. It is underpinned by assumptions about the fiscal incompetence
of developing countries, which must be made to reign in budget deficits
and remove obstacles to the circulation of capital in order to ‘emerge’ as
viable markets in the global economy.9I show how the increasing mobil-
ity and volatility of capital flows has enhanced the role of microfinance in
enabling poor households to continue meeting their everyday needs.10 And
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608 Stephen Young
as the demand for credit continues to increase, microfinance programmes
are themselves being restructured and further integrated into global flows of
financial technology and capital.
In the second half of the paper, I shift the scale of my analysis to
explore how these interlocking, global macro/micro financial flows interact
with particular regional social histories. More specifically, I draw on qual-
itative fieldwork conducted in Andhra Pradesh, India to provide a more
embodied account of how this financialisation of development reproduces
gendered ideologies and social relations ‘on the ground’.11 For instance,
whilst women’s entrepreneurship is widely celebrated by microfinance advo-
cates, there is also a continuing emphasis within these programmes on
disciplining women to be ‘good mothers’, responsible for the everyday
work of social reproduction.12 These dual responsibilities mean that their
entrepreneurial activities must usually be located in or close to the home,
which has further ramifications for how this work is experienced and how
it is socially and economically valued.13 It also allows for more comprehen-
sive peer monitoring between clients, which the microfinance institutions
encourage as a way to reduce the possibility of loan defaults. Thus, whilst
microfinance can enable poor women to challenge gender hierarchies in the
family, it may also structure and limit their spatial mobility in other important
At the same time, recent efforts to further expand and commercialise
microfinance in the region have increased the number of managers, advi-
sors and intermediaries working in the industry. I show how these positions
are predominantly taken up by young, middle-class/caste men because
of perceptions about their natural abilities to be mobile, to adapt to
new technologies, and to embody the kind of ‘fiscal responsibility’ that
is sought in their clients. Their mobility is linked to new forms of cul-
tural assertion, as many of these young men see themselves as financial
entrepreneurs, connecting remote villages to global capital flows.14 It also
points to the continuing gender and class hierarchies within development
thought and practice, which position poor women as being ‘empowered’
whilst reinforcing many of the cultural and spatial boundaries of acceptable
This paper is based on eight months of fieldwork in 2007, half of
which was spent in a small town in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh. I
conducted semi-structured interviews with forty-five people, including gov-
ernment officials, and microfinance staff and clients, and attended several
microfinance field visits and meetings. The paper begins by examining the
financialisation of global space since the end of the Cold War. I explore
this process in relation to the retreat of the state and corporate sector from
the work of social reproduction in many parts of the world. The growth of
microfinance as a development strategy is then examined in this context,
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 609
with particular attention paid to the way it contributes to the gendering of
everyday responsibilities and mobilities.
Geopolitics is the practice of envisioning and representing global space in
a way that reflects – though they are not always overtly stated – particu-
lar strategic interests. Most geopolitical treatises focus on some supposedly
innate, objective difference between people and places – based on religion,
race, resource endowment, and so on – that presents a security threat. In
some cases, this is used to argue for the construction of a more robust secu-
rity apparatus to separate ‘our’ space from ‘theirs’. Alternatively, difference
is understood as something to be tamed through diplomacy or, if neces-
sary, militarism, to create a more unified, orderly world. This imperative
has informed the various efforts of the West to ‘civilize’, ‘modernize’, and,
more recently, to ‘globalize’ those parts of the world deemed to be lagging
perilously behind.16
The work of critical geopolitics deconstructs these spatial representa-
tions, revealing their cartographic enclosures and erasures, and the material
violences they produce. The spatial imagination I am interested in became
particularly prominent in the 1990s. At this time, the red lines that had
embellished many Cold War maps to represent Soviet expansion were grad-
ually being displaced by another kind of ‘redlining’, which coded the world
according to financial ‘risk’. Understanding this financialisation of global
space requires examining the political-economic pressures and innovations
that enabled finance capital to become more mobile in the 1990s.
The Bretton-Woods Regime and its Breakdown
The global financial system of the post-war period was characterised by
national capital controls and fixed exchange rates.17 It was part of a broader
regulatory regime amongst non-communist countries, including India, in
which the state played an active role in coordinating global trade and
channelling finance capital away from speculation and toward the needs
of domestic industry and welfare. This system, which was always unevenly
implemented, began to shatter in the 1970s when Nixon abandoned the
Gold Standard, paving the way for floating exchange rates and a dramatic
increase in the trading of global currencies.18
The dismantling of the Bretton-Woods agreement led to ‘stagflation’
– recession coupled with high inflation – followed by a debt crisis that
brought about a relative halt to financial flows in many parts of the world.19
The concern amongst many transnational banks and financial houses at this
time was to both recoup their outstanding loans whilst avoiding a return to
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610 Stephen Young
the Keynesian regulations that were seen as having repressed the mobility
of finance capital in the post-war years.20 In the global North, the ‘baby
boomer’ generation was approaching retirement and pension funds were
looking to expand their portfolios into ‘exotic’ foreign markets that promised
higher rates of return.21 Many corporations, having seen manufacturing prof-
its slumps in the 1970s, were also seeking to further diversify their activities
and generate more profit through the financial sector.22 A tightening of the
constraints on capital mobility would clearly present a threat to such inter-
ests. Instead, the crisis was scripted by the IMF as having stemmed from the
profligacy of indebted governments and ‘fiscal responsibility’ became the
maxim by which those countries would be pressured to cut public spending,
devalue their currencies, privatise public industries, and liberalise markets.23
A number of studies have examined financialisation in terms of its impli-
cations for citizenship and regimes of governance in the global North. In the
face of growing economic volatility, even the average middle-class house-
hold had to think and act more like global investors, shrewdly managing
their time and money based on anticipated returns.24 The proliferation of
financial self-help literature, the boom in ‘plastic money’, and the advent
of financial ‘day-traders’ certainly supports this claim.25 However, as more
investment began to find its way into foreign bond and equity markets there
was clearly a crucial geopolitical component to this transition as well.26 In
spite of the ‘end of geography’ claims of some commentators,27 there was
nothing natural about the appearance of ‘emerging markets’ at the end of
the Cold War. New financial markets and subjectivities had to be constructed
in order for capital surpluses to find profitable outlets. This meant extending
financial technologies and practices across global space.
The Financialisation of Global Space
The last twenty years have seen the globalisation of multiple financial inno-
vations, many of which were developed on Wall Street.28 For example,
through securitisation, a practice that originated in the US mortgage mar-
ket in the late-1970s, long-term loans could be bundled together and then
sliced up and sold to investors as bonds with different returns depending
on the default risk.29 This new ‘originate and distribute’ model of bank-
ing created enormous liquidity in consumer credit markets whilst linking
mortgages, car loans, and credit card debts to global finance markets. It
also created thousands of highly leveraged investment banks and funds
around the world looking to purchase these derivatives in rapidly expand-
ing secondary markets.30 These innovations helped to inspire the Brady
Plan named after its primary architect, US Treasury Secretary Nicholas
Brady – which was adopted by the IMF in 1989 as a new strategy for deal-
ing with the indebted countries. The plan sought to unblock international
debt markets using similar instruments, which repackaged sovereign debts
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 611
allowing them to be traded as bonds or swapped for equity investments in
newly privatised assets.
The rapid increase in the global trading of bonds, derivatives and other
complex instruments also required intermediaries that could regulate these
flows by providing investors with reliable information. This includes bond-
rating institutions, which emerged from relative obscurity in the 1980s to
become influential shapers of global public policy.31 Bond ratings are con-
sidered an important indicator of how capable or willing a debtor is to repay
a loan and, therefore, how expensive that loan will be. For example, bonds
that are graded as ‘speculative’ are deemed to carry a high risk of default,
so investors will expect a high rate of return. Moody’s and Standard and
Poor’s,32 the Wall Street-based companies that dominate the industry, orig-
inally built their reputations publishing evaluations on the creditworthiness
of US railroad firms in the late-nineteenth century. As recently as the mid-
1970s, both companies had only a handful of regional offices outside of
New York City, employed just a few analysts, and were dependent on the
sale of published research to generate revenue.33 However, as governments
across the world became more dependent on global finance markets to raise
much-needed funds, the scope and significance of their operations rapidly
expanded. And whilst the rating process – which remains relatively secretive
– is usually seen as a neutral, technical procedure, free markets and fiscal
austerity are openly advocated.34 Indeed, political candidates who have pro-
posed to buck this trend, by investing in social programmes for example,
have often found that this leads to lower credit-ratings.35 This has the effect
of increasing the cost of borrowing, whittling away the funds that would
have been used for such programmes.
Bond-rating agencies form just one part of a global assemblage36 of
market surveillance technologies that rose to new prominence in the 1990s.
The IMF closely monitored the macroeconomic policies of highly indebted
poor countries and made the liberalisation of capital movements an explicit
part of its mission in 1997.37 The International Finance Corporation [IFC],
an offshoot of the World Bank, began compiling a database of ‘emerging’
and ‘frontier’ markets in 1986, which it later sold to Standard & Poor’s.38
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development [EBRD], sought
to ‘normalize’ post-Soviet economies and enable their integration into the
European Union.39 And the burgeoning business press began relaying every
movement in the money markets, providing additional surveillance and eval-
uation of the global political-economic landscape.40 Through these financial
mappings, countries were ranked according to their progress toward the
neoliberal norms that, it was claimed, would enable them to complete
for and capture their share of global investment flows. Auditing, rating
and benchmarking practices must therefore be understood as geopolitical
technologies that normalise certain policies whilst foreclosing the possibility
of other trajectories of development.41 By the end of the 1990s, in spite of
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612 Stephen Young
a string of financial crises in Mexico (1995), Asia (1997) and Russia (1998),
the World Bank had declared that ‘internationally mobile capital is here to
Terms such as ‘flow’ ‘circulation’ and ‘liquidity’ have now become popular
metaphors to describe not just finance capital but all that is novel about
today’s world; a world that is seemingly always on the move.43 However,
claims about unfettered movement and flows obscure the ways in which
mobility – of capital, technology, and people – is always structured and
differentiated.44 Susan Roberts highlights the cultural masculinism in both
business literature and popular financial self-help manuals, which emphasise
the need to see the whole world from a detached, objective perspective.45
It is an example of what Haraway (1997) calls the ‘God Trick’, in which the
observer is magically lifted out of their surroundings to a position of appar-
ent omnipotence.46 This imagination reflects the privileges of financial elites
– mostly men – who, thanks to various highly selective ‘border-softening’
initiatives, can move more quickly and easily between different polities and
social relations.47 This masculinity is also performed within the elite spaces
of finance, where traders emphasise the need for physical toughness, a cool
head, and a lack of emotion, characteristics which are culturally constructed
as male.48 These men are then seen as the heroic ‘pioneers’ of the finan-
cial world, embracing ‘risk’ and always looking to venture to new economic
horizons. This view is embodied by investment gurus such as Warren Buffet,
who advises would-be investors to be undeterred by global economic crises
and ‘look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy’.49
Just as transnational financial institutions are dominated at the highest
levels by men, so they tend to map a landscape that is primarily populated
by men.50 This works to invisibilise and naturalise the more intricate network
of gendered and racialised divisions of labour on which transnational capital
markets are built. This critique has informed a number of studies that look to
construct ‘counter topographies’, which track transnational flows from a non-
elite perspective, bringing devalued labour into view.51 Much of this work
also incorporates a focus on ‘social reproduction’, which Katz52 describes as
the fleshy, messy, and indeterminate stuff of everyday life. . . . At its
most basic, it hinges upon the biological reproduction of the labor force,
both generationally and on a daily basis, through the acquisition and
distribution of the means of existence, including food, shelter, clothing,
and health care.
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 613
Social reproduction must be seen as essential to, indeed mutually consti-
tutive of, the globalisation of financial markets. It is work that has been
accomplished through a historically and geographically shifting constella-
tion of the state, corporate capital, civil society, and the family, though in
all cases is it work disproportionately done by women.53 And it is work that
is inherently characterised by a ‘spatial stickiness’, taking place in particular
places at particular times.54
Acknowledging social reproduction, and the ways in which this work
is gendered and racialised, reveals how financialisation is linked in complex
ways to other kinds of (im)mobility. For example, in the global North, the
growing mobility of business elites, alongside the increasing entry of women
into paid work, has increased the need for nannies and au pairs to feed and
clothe their families.55 It has expanded the need for workers to ensure that
in-flight meals are prepared and hotel rooms cleaned for these footloose
travelers.56 Due to the implementation of ‘fiscally responsible’ public spend-
ing cuts, it has also increased the drive to recruit cheaper health professionals
to staff public sector hospitals and nursing homes.57 This produces ‘flows’
of migrant workers from the developing world – including those without
official documentation – and women in particular, who are recruited to fill
these positions at cheaper labour costs. These circulations must be seen in
dynamic relation to financial globalisation. They are driven by the parallel
‘flight’ of state and corporate capital, due to the market liberalisation and
public spending cuts, experienced in many parts of the developing world.
And they produce further financial ‘flows’, for example in the form of the
billions of dollars in remittances that migrants send home to support their
Microfinance in a Macro-Context
I argue that we must also consider microfinance in relation to these mul-
tiple, interlocking global circulations and examine the kinds of embodied
(im)mobility it enables. In particular, the pressure to increase credit-ratings
by cutting public sector jobs, dismantling subsidised credit programmes,
and introducing service fees, must be understood as expanding the need
for credit amongst poor populations to support self-employment and meet
basic living costs. This is not to say that microfinance was simply man-
ufactured in Washington DC as a substitute for the developmental state.
As the many thousands of thrift groups and rotating savings and credit
associations (ROSCAs) across the developing world illustrate, collateral free
loans and peer group lending practices have a long history. Microfinance
may even have been ahead of Wall Street in the way it sought to spread
‘risk’ by creating joint liability groups. Microfinance is not therefore inher-
ently designed to facilitate the liberalisation of global markets. Indeed, many
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614 Stephen Young
microfinance organisations, such as the Self Employed Women’s Association
(SEWA) in Gujarat, India, initially sought to create a political platform to
support the rights of women, particularly those who had lost their jobs
due to restructuring in the mill industry.58 Microfinance inevitably takes
different forms in different places depending on the evolving assemblage
of local, national and transnational institutions and actors in which it is
embedded.59 However, I am pointing to a particularly important conjunc-
ture since the 1980s, between various grassroots microcredit programmes
seeking to empower women and a clutch of influential development insti-
tutions supporting financial liberalisation and market-driven approaches to
As Heloise Weber’s work reveals, the kinds of ties I am pointing to
can in fact be found in the policy papers of the World Bank itself, dating
back to the mid-1980s.61 Microfinance, with its emphasis on self-reliance and
entrepreneurship, was considered a suitable outlet for the Emergency Social
Funds set up by the World Bank to assist populations experiencing what
were seen to be temporary hardships due to IMF-imposed liberalisation pro-
grammes. There has been nothing temporary about the hardships however,
and as transnational investors like Warren Buffet have embraced economic
volatilities as opportunities for profit, so the need for microfinance pro-
grammes to address their consequences ‘on the ground’ has also expanded.
In 1995, the World Bank set up the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor
[CGAP], a consortium of microfinance donors and institutional representa-
tives from around the world, whose task was to develop and disseminate
information about microfinance to policy makers and development agencies.
It was also established to create links with transnational financial institu-
tions that could help bring the technologies and practices of Wall Street into
the microfinance industry. Doing so, it was hoped, would create a shared
framework of accounting standards and ‘best practices’, enabling microfi-
nance institutions to attract more private funds and dramatically expand
In 2001, CGAP, in alliance with the Citigroup Foundation, George
Soros’s Open Society Institute and other private foundations, launched the
‘Mix Market’, a website that provides online financial data for over 1,000
microfinance institutions.63 Data from around the world is displayed on
an interactive heat map and it is possible to find a number of investment
opportunities in Andhra Pradesh, India. Drawing from my fieldwork in this
region, the next section explores how this mobilisation of microfinance –
the mobilisation of private sector capital, technologies and practices – has
also created new kinds of mobility ‘on the ground’. In particular, I show how
everyday mobility is shaped, in part, by the articulation of these gendered
macro/micro financial mappings of space and the political-cultural histories
of the region.
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 615
The State of Andhra Pradesh has the highest numbers of microfinance mem-
bers per capita in India, perhaps even the world. Chandrababu Naidu, who
served as Chief Minister of the State from 1995 to 2004, played a critical role
in the proliferation of microfinance programmes. When he took office, both
the central and State governments had embarked on a process of economic
liberalisation that was catalysed, though not started, by an IMF structural
adjustment loan.64 Naidu sought to further expand these reforms at the state
level by introducing more fees for public services and further reducing subsi-
dies for water, electricity, fertiliser, and credit.65 These policies were aimed at
cutting the state’s fiscal deficit and promoting the role of the private sector in
creating jobs and providing services and infrastructure. In particular, Naidu
focused on luring IT giants such as Dell and Microsoft to the state by offering
them a number of incentives. His reforms – though arguably never as radical
in practice as in rhetoric – created a major stir in the international business
media, which enthusiastically dubbed the state capital ‘Cyberabad’. In an
annual Business Today survey gauging CEO perceptions about the invest-
ment climate in different Indian states, Andhra Pradesh’s ranking rocketed
from twenty-second (out of twenty-six) in 1995 to third in 1999.66 CRISIL, the
Indian subsidiary of Standard & Poor’s, increased the state’s credit rating in
1998 based on Naidu’s commitment to public sector cutbacks and the World
Bank sanctioned several loans on the conditionality of further reductions in
the fiscal deficit.
Whilst these reforms were popular with financial institutions and
investors they did relatively little in terms of overall job creation, which
was the lowest for any Indian state between 1993 and 2005.67 This created
particularly acute problems in rural areas, considered Naidu’s major support
base, due to declining investments in agriculture. The solution that Naidu
sought to this problem was through microfinance. With funding and tech-
nical support from the World Bank, he dramatically expanded the state’s
‘Self Help Group’68 scheme on the back of a major public relations cam-
paign. His party also boosted enrolments by tying access to some welfare
services, such as subsidised gas connections, to membership of a microfi-
nance group. The number of government-supported ‘Self Help Groups’ in
the state subsequently increased from 10,000 in 1994 to 365,000, in 2000.69
This, however, is only one of the programmes currently running in the
state. Since 2000, there has also been a huge growth in private-sector micro-
finance. A number of these commercial microfinance institutions, which
provide only credit, are former non-profit NGOs that had grown tired with
what they saw as the slow pace and overly politicised nature of Naidu’s
scheme.70 Seeing the huge market potential for microloans they began work-
ing independently, borrowing money from private banks and lending it to
clients at a profit. The commercial microfinance industry subsequently grew
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616 Stephen Young
at a rate of approximately 500% a year and the total loans outstanding for
this sector in India was expected to reach around $2 billion by 2009.71 These
institutions branched out into other states but Andhra Pradesh was again the
primary centre for lending. The demand for loans seemed to be fuelled not
simply by the political enfranchisement of women in the state but because
public spending cuts had increased the pressure to find new means to start
small enterprises and pay service fees.
The phenomenal growth of commercial microfinance was also enabled
by funding from a number of commercial banks. Mumbai-based ICICI, which
had established itself as the largest private bank in India, provided substan-
tial support to a number of microfinance institutions.72 This enabled the
bank to meet government-stipulated rural-lending targets, and boosted its
credentials as a ‘socially responsible’ enterprise. In 2005, the ICICI signed a
$4.3 million securitisation deal with Hyderabad-based SHARE Microfin Ltd,
linking thousands of microloans to global capital markets. A Businessweek
article enthused,
“The income stream from thousands of microloans is repackaged into an
asset that mutual funds and insurance companies such as Life Insurance
Corp. of India buy in the form of interest-bearing notes. If it takes off, the
formula could revolutionize the world’s estimated $10 billion microcredit
market by bringing in new and cheaper funding derived from the sale of
this paper. Securitizing microfinance loans “is the most effective way of
[getting] market capital to the rural poor and pulling them out of poverty,”
says Subir V. Gokarn, chief economist of top Indian rating agency CRISIL
Ltd. “India’s efforts could take microfinance to the next level.”73
As the article shows, CRISIL was also becoming increasingly involved in
microfinance by this time, rating institutions that were looking to raise funds
based on ‘their systems, processes and internal controls, asset quality, orga-
nizational efficiency, governance, management, financial performance and
The involvement of commercial banks and rating agencies obviously
led to a number of changes in the structure and operations of microfinance
institutions. At one head office I was introduced to representatives from the
‘risk management’ department, which had been created to provide investors
with detailed information about their lending portfolios (average loan size,
use of loan, and so on). I also met with a member of staff who was working
with VISA, the multinational credit card company, to explore the feasibility of
introducing handheld digital ‘smart cards’ into their operations.75 The cards,
which store data on the loans and repayments made by different members,
are designed to reduce the length of meetings by enabling information to
be stored and transferred digitally.
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 617
I interviewed staff at all levels in this chain of microfinance. Much of
this time was spent scribbling down notes about new mechanisms that were
being introduced to speed up and expand operations. It was only after a
few weeks of fieldwork that I started to notice that my interviewees were
overwhelmingly men. Perhaps at the highest levels of the industry, this
should not have come as a surprise. After all, the most high profile fig-
ure in microfinance is a man, and many of the senior staff who have moved
into the sector in India previously worked in corporate banking or other for-
profit businesses. In fact, The Grameen Foundation, which is also a member
of CGAP, actively encourages commercial microfinance institutions to ‘hire
astute financial professionals. . .[who] can understand and apply sophisti-
cated corporate finance principles and can comfortably communicate with
investment banks and investors’.76
Yet, men seemed to be significantly over-represented at all levels,
including at the branch offices. I interviewed seven field officers77 at a lead-
ing microfinance institution, all of whom were men aged between eighteen
and twenty-six, and each one had come to this branch from different dis-
tricts of the state. I was told that, after recruitment and training, it is part of
company policy to send staff to work in another district.78 This was done
to reduce the opportunities for corruption, which may arise if they work in
areas where they have pre-existing social relations. This was emphasised to
me on several occasions, including on a field visit when a member of staff
chided me for purchasing food from a stall run by one of ‘his clients’. Staff
must therefore be mobile, leaving their home to take up a position wherever
the company needs them, in order to maintain a ‘professional distance’ from
This mobility is also a part of their everyday activities and is related
to the ability to adapt to ‘modern’ technology, such as mobile phones, lap-
tops, and motorbikes. On a few occasions, I accompanied field officers, by
motorbike or car, on visits to the villages where they dispense loans and
collect repayments. They would arrive at the branch offices at around 6:30
in the morning and leave to visit villages soon afterwards. Meetings followed
a strict regime. A group of around twenty clients would gather together and
sit in a circle and the meeting would open with an oath said by the women
in which they promised to use the money for the benefit of their families
and make their repayments on time. The field officer would then collect
the week’s repayments and, if all the groups paid their full installments, new
loans would be dispensed and credit needs discussed. These meetings lasted
around twenty minutes, after which the field officer left to another meeting,
perhaps in another village. The afternoons would be spent transferring the
data from the day’s business onto a computer at the branch office. From
there it was e-mailed to the Head Office, thereby providing the hard data
that would later be used to attract new investments. In the early evening,
new villages were visited and surveys conducted, in which the quality of
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618 Stephen Young
housing and small enterprise potential was assessed. A decision would then
be made regarding whether to approach the village sarpanch (the head
of the village-level government) and request permission to inform women
about their organisation.
The mobility of these young men is also connected to new kinds of sub-
jectivities. For example, an area manager told me about the ‘historic growth’
that has seen membership increase by 300% per month in his area. ‘We are
looking to the whole nation’, he said, ‘our aim is not profit, it is penetration.
We want to be everywhere in India’. He then showed me some company
PowerPoint presentations, which showed how their business strategy was
modelled after McDonalds and Starbucks. Working in microfinance, he told
me, was excellent preparation for the wider world of business: ‘Here I can
be CEO, I can take any decision’. As a consequence of the high growth
rates in his region he was communicating and travelling regularly between
coastal Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad where the company headquarters is
based. Field officers also often talked about how their work was secure, well
paid, offered opportunities for promotion, and was seen as respectable by
others.80 Most were from rural areas and they talked about how travelling to
different places, forming groups, and conducting meetings had given them
confidence as public speakers.
The narratives told by the young men I interviewed are important in
the context of changing ideas and expressions of masculinity in many parts
of rural India. As Jeffrey et al. (2008) have argued in their work in rural Uttar
Pradesh, there has been growing enthusiasm amongst lower- and middle-
class parents in the last three decades to keep their children, particularly
boys, in formal education. This was based on expectations that educational
qualifications would provide them with secure, salaried, ‘pen work’ allow-
ing them to move out of traditional occupations as labourers, artisans and
agriculturalists. However, cuts in public sector spending, a conditionality
of World Bank loans, has seen a shrinking of government jobs in recent
years and liberalisation has created very little in terms of service and IT jobs
outside of a few major cities. Some young, educated, middle-caste men in
rural Andhra Pradesh have been able to find such work through a develop-
ment project that has ‘women’s empowerment’ as its self-proclaimed mission
though. Having mobility, as well as money, is important in this cultivation
of ‘modern’ subjectivities among young men. Ossella and Ossella’s81 work
in Kerala also shows how migration for work purposes, in this case usu-
ally to the Gulf region, provides opportunities for young men to assert their
independence, break away from home and make a successful transition to
adulthood. Gidwani and Sivaramakrishnan82 also explore the performance
of ‘subaltern cosmopolitanism’ amongst young men who migrate internally
between rural and urban areas. I am suggesting that this ‘cosmopolitan’
masculinity is also performed through more everyday forms of mobility, as
well as seasonal or long-term migration.83 Indeed, it may not always involve
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 619
physically moving to centres of urban capital, such as Hyderabad or Mumbai,
so much as being a part of the circulations of capital and technology with
which they are associated. Being able to handle financial technologies and
practices correctly and confidently gave these young men a sense of con-
nection and belonging to a larger social and economic domain, of being
‘men in the world’.84
This does not mean that being disciplinarian and assertive is all that is
required, as deference and respect is also valued. For example, a branch
manager told me, ‘We don’t call them ‘clients’, we don’t call them ‘cus-
tomers’, they are always ‘members’. ‘Hama’, this is what we call our clients.
You know this word? It means ‘mother’. Whether they are 20 years old or
50 years old we call them ‘hama’ as a sign of respect.’ This is not sim-
ply about mimicking the behaviours of elite financiers on Wall Street in
New York City, or even Dalal Street in Mumbai. Rather, it is about being
able to blend together attributes associated with global success with forms
of communication and comportment that are more locally specific. In this
case, a judicious balancing of humility and assertion is a key index of suc-
cessful masculinity. This also points to the spatial limits associated with such
cultural-economic performances. Even the most confident young men I inter-
viewed seemed aware that the personal skills they had developed could not
simply be transferred to another place – mobility still has limits.
There is another side to this gendering of mobility through microfi-
nance. A field officer told me that he only lends to women who are married
because, for example, if a woman joins a credit group and then marries, she
might leave to live at her mother-in-law’s house and stop her business. This
would make it more difficult for ‘peer pressure’ between members to func-
tion as a means of preventing loan defaults. This was clearly widespread
policy among microfinance institutions and stems from conventional eco-
nomic reasoning. For instance, Jonathan Morduch’s widely cited paper on
microfinance notes that ‘the lower mobility of women may be a plus where
‘ex-post moral hazard’ is a problem (i.e., where there is a fear that clients will
“take the money and run”)’.85 This relative lack of mobility was also struc-
tured by other lending criteria. Microfinance staff had a list of entrepreneurial
activities such as buying buffaloes, running ration shops, and purchasing
sewing machines, for which they would give loans. This work was usually
based in the village, often in the home, and frequently involved a purchase
that could be easily verified by other group members. I recall sitting at a
group meeting as the field officer asked members what they had used their
loans for and then turned to others to look for verification. Sometimes he
would propose to make further checks himself: ‘OK, we will come to see
your hotel to know if this is genuine’; ‘What is your shop’s name?’; ‘How
much do you charge for a 1
/2liter packet [of milk]?’
Microfinance programmes also emphasise the need for women to be
‘good mothers’, for instance through the oath that women must say at the
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620 Stephen Young
start of meetings about using credit to uplift their families.86 This returns us to
the ‘spatial stickiness’ of social reproduction. Mobility is not only reinforced
through the gendering of entrepreneurship but also through the gendering
of responsibilities for social reproduction. The location of small businesses
close to the home was shaped by expectations that women would balance
these two responsibilities, a point that is re-iterated in multiple interview
transcripts: ‘At this point the pressure cooker in her house began sounding
and she ran to check on the food’; ‘She left, carrying food parcels for her
children, and said goodbye’. Thus, supporting women’s right to work did not
necessarily mean challenging notions of ‘women’s work’, and entrepreneur-
ship remains bound together with continuing commitments to caring for
the family. As Lawson argues, the spatiality of work affects how it is val-
ued socially and economically.87 It may, for example, prevent women from
joining and engaging in collective actions with traditional labour unions.
It can also restrict women’s abilities to assert certain rights outside the
family or community, and to challenge larger patriarchal structures and
I do not want to reduce these complex intersections of gender, work,
and mobility to a simple men-global-mobile, woman-local-immobile for-
mula. For one, this would ignore the way in which the everyday work of
social reproduction often requires women to travel long distances. Indeed,
Alison Jaggar has argued that in many parts of the world, the length of
distance that women must travel to collect clean drinking water, for exam-
ple, has also increased due to the privatisation of natural resources.88 Also,
perceptions and experiences of mobility are strongly linked to other struc-
tures of domination such as class and caste. For instance, some women
were able to attain positions as group and village-level leaders within their
microfinance groups. This afforded opportunities to travel, including attend-
ing meetings with district officials twice a month. But these opportunities
are limited and often determined by educational level or other indicators of
socio-economic status.
Also, mobility should not necessarily be understood as something
that is automatically seen as positive, desirable, and empowering. During
interviews in a predominantly middle-caste semi-urban area, many women
asserted the importance and convenience of working from the home. One
woman, aged twenty-eight years old, commented, ‘Before, too many women
were involved in their domestic activities but nowadays they are developing
by joining these [microfinance] groups, getting loans, paying loans, getting
bank books, learning how to get loans, how to talk with officials, how to
save money, how to earn money, where to get money if they need it.’
However, a later comment shows how the positive changes she alluded to
did not change gendered and spatial divisions of labour: ‘The government
must start any type of work that is helpful to women and also allows them
to work in their own home.’ Another woman, aged fifty-five and from a
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 621
similar socio-economic background commented, ‘Women are generally free
after sending their children to school. . .so the government should give train-
ing which is useful to them to do that work in their home. It will help the
development of women and give income.’ Other women also pointed to
the convenience of having credit brought to their villages. Thus, whether
through the internalisation of patriarchal norms or a negotiated pragma-
tism, some women also reproduced discourses that normalise inequalities
in terms of gender, work, and mobility. This further complicates the very
notion of ‘empowerment’. The concept, which has become almost synony-
mous with microfinance, is often assumed to have a singular meaning that
is open to measurement and appraisal. Yet, in this instance, some women
also talked about empowerment as stemming from the ability to not have to
work outside the home or interact with government officials, an important
counterpoint to conventional understandings of the term.89
Finally, if gendered subjectivities are reproduced through these pro-
cesses, then they are also contested, reworked and potentially transformed.
Some of the women I interviewed also saw their membership of a microfi-
nance group as signifying a link to a wider community and opening up new
possibilities to challenge gender norms. Sometimes, this takes the form of
more subtle, everyday tactics. For instance, during meetings women would
sometimes laugh discreetly at the field officer as he was trying to run an
orderly meeting, or argue with him about their credit needs.90 There have
also been more organised, larger-scale protests, such as those that occurred
in Krishna district in 2006, which led to the closure of around fifty microfi-
nance branches on the grounds of unfair interest rate policies and aggressive
loan recovery practices.91 Thus, as Anna Secor notes,
Although patriarchal ideologies may successfully accommodate women
in the labor force without disruption, at the same time waged work
can and does produce disruptive women – women for whom ‘economic
independence’ becomes a catalyst for their own self-definition as subjects
with rights and voices in the family, the community, and perhaps even
more broadly.92
Thus, microfinance must be seen as an arena for the contestation rather than
straightforward reproduction of inequalities in rural India.93
In this paper, I have situated the everyday flows and mobilities associated
with microfinance programmes in a region of rural India in dynamic relation
to the broader financialisation of global space since the 1980s. In doing so, I
have called into question some of the popular assumptions associated with
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622 Stephen Young
microfinance and shown it to be a more contradictory resource than is often
acknowledged. I have shown how demand for microfinance in the global
South has expanded in concert with the globalisation of financial practices
and technologies developed mostly in the global North. The further inte-
gration of many microfinance programmes into global flows of financial
technology and capital is now opening up even more investment oppor-
tunities for banks and financial firms across the world. In spite of protests
from some key figures, including Mohammad Yunus, microfinance is now
a very profitable, multi-billion dollar industry and demand is continuing to
This financialisation of development has also created opportunities for
increased mobility and new forms of cultural assertion among some young,
middle-caste men in rural Andhra Pradesh. These men are often perceived
as being naturally able to adapt to new technologies, assured and disci-
plined workers, and able to move easily between different places. This
enables them to project themselves as respectable entrepreneurs, mediating
between urban capital flows and village credit groups. This is particularly
significant given that many young men in the region have found themselves
increasingly marginalised by fiscal reforms that have restricted their access
to government jobs and subsidised credit programmes.
Furthermore, whilst microfinance enables many women to meet their
basic needs and challenge their subordination within the household, it
can also work, in conjunction with the broader liberalisation programmes
promoted by international financial institutions, to structure and circum-
scribe women’s spatial mobility in other ways. By promoting particular
kinds of economic and social responsibilities, microfinance programmes
tend to reproduce gendered ideologies regarding the kinds of work, paid
and unpaid, that women do, and the spatiality of this labour. This can limit
opportunities to contest structures of domination at other, broader scales.94
In conclusion, instead of separating microfinance as a development tool
from the broader geopolitical restructuring of financial markets we have to
explore the unequal interdependencies between them. Doing so means fur-
ther troubling the divisions between the global and the local, the public
and private, the urban and rural, the social and the economic. This can
help to formulate new questions about microfinance as a development strat-
egy. For instance, rather than seeking to increase the amount of private
debt that poor households are able to absorb, it can point to the need for
more public spending to reduce the burden of health and education costs
and support job creation. As well as thinking about inequalities within the
household, it raises questions about wider inequalities in terms of labour
and spatial mobility. And rather than encouraging financial elites to assist
the microfinance sector, it suggests that reverse learning is required in which
microfinance members advise international financial institutions and policy
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 623
I would like to thank Lakshman Rao for his work translating and transcribing
many of the interviews, as well as everyone who gave their time to talk with
us. I also want to thank Emma Mawdsley, Katharine Rankin, David Newman,
Craig Jeffrey, Philippa Williams, Stephanie von Wogau, Srinivas Chokkakula,
Caroline Faria and Jay Freistadt for generous feedback on earlier iterations
of this paper. Any errors are my own. Finally, thanks to Marcus Power for
organising the Critical Geopolitics conference at Durham and enabling me
to contribute to this special issue.
1. N. Kabeer, Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought (New York: Verso
1994); V. Lawson, Making Development Geography (New York: Oxford University Press 2007).
2. J. Fernando, ‘Microcredit and Empowerment of Women: Blurring the Boundary Between
Development and Capitalism’, in J. Fernando (ed.), Microfinance: Perils and Prospects (New York:
Routledge 2006) p. 1.
3. See M. Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
(New York: Public Affairs 1999); and the Microcredit Summit Declaration from 1997„ available at
For a critique see L. Mayoux, ‘Questioning Virtuous Spirals: Micro-Finance and Women’s Empowerment
in Africa’, in Journal of International Development 11 (1997) pp. 957–984.
4. N. Kabeer, ‘Conflicts over Credit: Re-evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women
in Bangladesh’, World Development 29/1 (2001) pp. 63–84; A. M. Goetz and R. Sen Gupta, ‘Who Takes
the Credit? Gender, Power and Control Over Loan Use in Rural Credit Programs in Bangladesh’, in World
Development 24/1 (1995) pp. 45–63.
5. M. M. Pitt and S. R. Khandker, Household and Intrahousehold Impact of the Grameen Bank and
Similar Targeted Credit Programs in Bangladesh, World Bank Discussion Paper 320 (Washington DC:
World Bank 1996); S. M. Hashemi, S. R. Schuler, and A. P Riley, ‘Rural Credit Programs and Women’s
Empowerment in Bangladesh’, in World Development 24/4 (1996) pp. 635–653.
6. L. Milgram, ‘Banking on Bananas, Crediting Crafts: Financing Women’s Work in the Philippine
Cordillera’ and K. Rankin, ‘Social Capital, Microfinance, and the Politics of Development’, in J. Fernando
(ed.), Microfinance: Perils and Prospects (New York: Routledge 2006).
7. Also see H. Weber, ‘The Imposition of a Global Development Architecture: The Example of
Microcredit’, Review of International Studies 28 (2002) pp. 537–555; H. Weber, ‘The New Economy and
Social Risk: Banking on the Poor’, Review of International Political Economy 11/4 (2004) pp. 356–386; J.
Fernando, ‘Microcredit and Empowerment: Visibility Without Power’, in J. Fernando (ed.), Microfinance:
Perils and Prospects (New York: Routledge 2006).
8. M. Coleman, ‘Thinking about the World Bank’s “Accordion” Geography of Financial
Globalization’, Political Geography 21 (2002) pp. 495–524; J. Hackworth, ‘Local Autonomy, Bond-Rating
Agencies and Neoliberal Urbanism in the United States’, International Journal of Urban and Regional
Research 26/4 (2002) pp. 707–725; Katharyne Mitchell and Katherine Beckett, ‘Securing the Global City:
Crime, Consulting, Risk, and Ratings in the Production of Urban Space’, Indiana Journal of Global
Legal Studies 15/1 (2008) pp. 75–100; T. Sinclair, The New Masters of Capital: American Bond Rating
Agencies and the Politics of Creditworthiness (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 2005); A. Smith,
‘Imagining Geographies of the ‘New Europe’: Geo-Economic Power and the New European Architecture
of Integration’, Political Geography 21 (2002) pp. 647–670; G. Ó Tuathail, ‘Emerging Markets and Other
Simulations: Mexico, Chiapas and the Geofinancial Panopticon’, Ecumune 4/3 (1997) pp. 300–317.
9. E. J. Popke, ‘Recasting Geopolitics: The Discursive Scripting of the International Monetary Fund’,
Political Geography 13/3 (1994) pp. 255–269; J. D. Sidaway and M. D. Pryke, ‘The Strange Geographies
of “Emerging Markets”’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 25/2 (2000) pp. 187–201.
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624 Stephen Young
10. In the global North, a similar argument can be made regarding ‘alternative’ financial institutions
such as ‘Payday Loans’. See S. M. Graves, ‘Landscapes of Predation, Landscapes of Neglect: A Location
Analysis of Payday Lenders and Banks’, The Professional Geographer 55/3 (2003) pp. 303–317.
11. On gender and mobility also see M. B. Mills, ‘Gender and Inequality in the Global Labor Force’,
Annual Review of Anthropology 32 (2003) pp. 41–62; R. Silvey, ‘Power, Difference and Mobility’, Progress
in Human Geography 28/4 (2004) pp. 490–506; T. P. Uteng and T. Cresswell (eds.), Gendered Mobilities
(London: Ashgate 2008).
12. J. Fernando, ‘Disciplining the Mother: Micro-Credit Programs in Bangladesh’, Ghadar 1/1
(1997); K. Rankin, ‘Social Capital, Microfinance, and the Politics of Development’, Journal of Feminist
Economics 8/1 (2002) pp. 1–24; K. Rankin, ‘Governing Development: Neoliberalism, Microcredit, and
Rational Economic Woman’, Economy and Society 30/1 (2001) pp. 18–37.
13. V. A. Lawson, ‘Tailoring is a Profession; Seamstressing is Just Work!’, Environment and
Planning A 30 (1998) pp. 209–227; A. J. Secor, ‘Belaboring Gender: The Spatial Practice of Work and the
Politics of ‘Making Do’ in Istanbul’, Environment and Planning A 35/12 (2003) pp. 2209–2227.
14. V. Gidwani and K. Sivaramakrishnan, ‘Circular Migration and Rural Cosmopolitanism in India’,
Contributions to Indian Sociology 37 (2003) pp. 339–367; C. Jeffrey, P. Jeffery, and R. Jeffery, Degrees
Without Freedom? Education, Masculinities and Unemployment in North India (Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press 2008); F. Osella, C. Osella, and R. Chopra, South Asian Masculinities: Context of Change,
Sites of Continuity (Delhi: Kali for Women & Women Unlimited 2004); F. Osella and C. Osella, ‘Migration,
Money and Masculinity in Kerala’, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6/1 (2000) pp.
15. Sangtin Writers Collective and R. Nagar, Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism
through Seven Lives in India (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press 2007).
16. J. A. Agnew, Geopolitics: Revisioning World Politics,2
nd ed. (London, New York: Routledge
2003); D. Massey, For Space (London: Sage 2005).
17. B. Eichengreen, Globalizing Capital: A History of the International Monetary System (Princeton:
Princeton University Press 1996).
18. E. Helleiner, States and the Reemergence of Global Finance (NY: Cornell University Press 1994).
19. S. Corbridge, Debt and Development (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell 1993).
20. D. Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press 2005) p. 31.
21. A. Harmes, ‘Mass Investment Culture’, New Left Review 9 (2001); Sidaway and Pryke (note 9).
22. R. Brenner, The Boom and the Bubble (London: Verso 2003); G. R. Krippner, ‘The
Financialization of the American Economy’, Socio-Economic Review 3/2 (2005) pp. 173–208.
23. S. Black, ‘Life and Debt’ (New Yorker Video); M. Coleman, ‘Thinking About the World Bank’s
“Accordion” Geography of Financial Globalization’, Political Geography 21 (2002) pp. 495–524; E. J.
Popke, ‘Recasting Geopolitics: The Discursive Scripting of the International Monetary Fund’, Political
Geography 13/3 (1994) pp. 255–269.
24. P. Langley, ‘The Making of Investor Subjects in Anglo-American Pensions’, Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space 24/6 (2006) pp. 919–934; A. Barry, T. Osborne, and N. S. Rose, Foucault
and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism, and Rationalities of Government (University of Chicago
Press 1996).
25. Harmes (note 21); R. Martin, The Financialization of Everyday Life (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press 2002).
26. P. Gowan, The Global Gamble ( New York: Verso 1999).
27. R. O’Brien, Global Financial Integration: The End of Geography (London: Pinter Publishers
28. Peter Gowan argues, the term ‘Wall Street’ should be understood to include London, which
acts as a satellite for many Wall Street institutions due to its more lax regulations. See P. Gowan, ‘Crisis
in the Heartland,’ New Left Review 55 (Jan./Feb. 2009).
29. L. T. Kendall and M. J. Fishman, A Primer on Securitization (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1996).
30. E. LiPuma and B. Lee, Financial Derivatives and the Globalization of Risk (London: Duke
University Press 2004).
31. T. Sinclair (note 9).
32. A third company, Fitch, has now also claimed a significant share of the global rating market
but powerful regulatory bodies such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bank
for International Settlements have generally assigned greater authority and influence to the ratings of
Moody’s and S&P’s.
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 625
33. F. Partnoy, ‘The Siskel and Ebert of Financial Markets?: Two Thumbs Down for the Credit
Rating Agencies’, Washington University Law Quarterly 77 (1999) p. 647.
34. Mitchell and Beckett (note 8). See also L. Mosley, Global Capital and National Governments
(Cambridge, New York, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press 2003).
35. Ibid.
36. I use the term ‘assemblage’ rather than ‘architecture’ to avoid suggesting that these institutions
form a seamless and stable regulatory framework.
37. H. Weber, ‘A Political Analysis of the PRSP Initiative: Social Struggles and the Organization of
Persistent Relations of Inequality’, Globalizations 3/2 (June 2006) pp. 187–206.
38. Sidaway and Pryke (note 9).
39. A. Smith (note 8).
40. Ó Tuathail (note 8).
41. W. Larner and R. Le Heron, ‘The Spaces and Subjects of a Globalising Economy: A Situated
Exploration of Method’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20/6 (2002) pp. 753–774. It is
also crucial to note that these technologies work in conjunction with more draconian security measures
to displace and incarcerate undesirable populations; see Mitchell and Beckett (note 8).
42. World Development Report, 1999–2000.
43. For example, Z. Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press 2000); but cf. Karen Ho,
‘Situating Global Capitalisms: A View from Wall Street Investment Banks’, Cultural Anthropology 20/1
(2005) pp. 68–96.
44. For an analysis that focuses on the relative stasis of everyday life in the context of neolib-
eral economic change see C. Jeffrey, ‘Generation Nowhere: Rethinking Youth Through the Lens of
Unemployed Young Men’, Progress in Human Geography 32/6 (2008) pp. 739–758.
45. S. Roberts, ‘Global Strategic Vision: Managing the World’, in R. W. Perry and B. Maurer (eds.),
Globalization Under Construction: Governmentality, Law, and Identity (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota
Press 2003).
46. D. Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in feminism and the Privilege of
Partial perspective’, Feminist Studies 14 (1988) pp. 575–599.
47. C. Calhoun, ‘The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travelers: Toward a Critique of Actually
Existing Cosmopolitanism’, South Atlantic Quarterly 101/4 (2002) pp. 869–897; M. Sparke, ‘A Neoliberal
Nexus: Citizenship, Security and the Future of the Border’, Political Geography 25/2 (2006) pp. 151–180.
48. L. McDowell, Capital Culture: Gender at Work in the City (Oxford: Blackwell 1993). McDowell
further emphasises that socialising after work also tends to take place in bars, golf courses, sports
stadiums, also culturally ‘male’ spaces, which works to further marginalise women. See also Caitlin
Zaloom, ‘Ambiguous Numbers: Trading Technologies and Interpretation in Financial Markets’, American
Ethnologist 30/2 (2003) pp. 258–272.
49. Cited in Harmes (note 21).
50. C. Enloe, Bananas, Beaches & Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley:
University of California Press 1990).
51. G. Pratt and B. Yeoh, ‘Transnational (Counter) Topographies’, Gender, Place and Culture
– A Journal of Feminist Geography 10/2 (2003) pp. 159–166; C. Katz, ‘Vagabond Capitalism and the
Necessity of Social Reproduction’, Antipode 33/4 (2001) pp. 709–728; S. Sassen, ‘Women’s Burden:
Counter-Geographies of Globalization and the Feminization of Survival’, Nordic Journal of International
Law 71 (2002) 255–274; M. Wright, Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism (New York
and London: Routledge 2006).
52. Katz (note 51) p. 710.
53. Ibid.
54. Pratt and Yeoh (note 51).
55. G. Pratt, ‘From Registered Nurse to Registered Nanny: Discursive Geographies of Filipina
Domestic Workers in Vancouver, B.C.’, Economic Geography 75/3 (1997) pp. 215–236; D. Mattingly,
‘The Home and the World: Domestic Service and International Networks of Caring Labor’, Annals of the
Association American Geographers 91/2 (2001) pp. 370–386.
56. L. McDowell, A. Batnitzky, and S. Dyer, ‘Internationalization and the Spaces of Temporary
Labour: The Global Assembly of a Local Workforce’, British Journal of Industrial Relations 46/4 (2008)
pp. 750–770.
57. Ibid.
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626 Stephen Young
58. K. Rose, Where Women Are Leaders: The SEWA Movement in India (London, Atlantic Highlands,
NJ: Zed Books Ltd. 1992).
59. See K. Rankin, ‘Manufacturing Rural Finance in Asia: Institutional assemblages, Market Societies,
Entrepreneurial Subjects’, Geoforum 39 (2008) pp. 1965–1977.
60. See also A. Sharma, ‘Crossbreeding Institutions, Breeding Struggle: Women’s Empowerment,
Neoliberal Governmentality, and State (Re)Formation in India’, Cultural Anthropology 21/1 (2006) pp.
61. Weber (note 7).
62. According to a recent paper sponsored by the Grameen Foundation the demand
for microfinance currently stands at around $300 billion, whilst market supply is just $4 bil-
lion. See J. Meehan, ‘Tapping the Financial Markets for Microfinance’, available online at
63. Available online at <>.
64. S. Corbridge and J. Harriss, Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular
Democracy (Malden, MA: Polity Press 2000).
65. S. Rao, ‘Reforms with a Female Face: Gender, Liberalization, and Economic Policy in Andhra
Pradesh, India’, World Development 36/7 (2008) pp. 1213–1232; K. C. Suri, ‘The Dilemma of Democracy:
Economic Reforms and Electoral Politics in Andhra Pradesh’, in J. Mooij (ed.), The Politics of Economic
Reforms in India (New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications 2005).
66. J. A. Kirk, ‘Banking on India’s State’s: The Politics of World Bank Reform Programs in Andhra
Pradesh and Karnataka’, India Review 4/3 (2005) pp. 287–325.
67. Andhra Pradesh Human Development Report, prepared by the Center for Economic and Social
Studies (CESS), 2008.
68. The ‘Self Help Group’ programme was originally part of the central government’s Development
of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) project.
69. Andhra Pradesh Human Development Report (note 67).
70. J. Manor, ‘Successful Governance Reforms in Two Indian States: Karnataka and Andhra
Pradesh’, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 45/4 (2007) pp. 425–451.
71. ‘Microfinance Business to Touch $2 billion by 2009’, The Economic Times (India), 28 Jan.
2008, available at <
articleshow/2735958.cms>, accessed 16 Jan. 2009.
72. ICICI funds around 80% of the Indian commercial microfinance market. Citibank and Deutche
Bank have also been involved in lending.
73. M. Kripalani and C. Lindblad, ‘Tiny Loans, High Finance’, Businessweek, 27 Sep. 2004, available
at <>, accessed 18 Jan.
74. <
75. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has itself introduced mobile phone banking after entering
into a partnership with a Norwegian telephone company.
76. Meehan (note 62).
77. Field officers work at the branch level. Their work involves forming groups, taking loans to
villages, conducting meetings, and collecting repayments.
78. Field Officer vacancies are advertised in newspapers and attract hundreds of applicants per
job. Candidates must have completed college level education to be considered. A selection of applicants
is then invited to take a written exam, followed by a public speech test, and finally a personal interview.
If they are given a job, the new staff will be approximately three weeks training and then posted to work
at a branch in another district.
79. See Fernando (note 12) on the ‘clientelization of gender’.
80. The field officers I interviewed received approximately 5,000 rupees a month ($125), a signifi-
cant amount of money in rural Andhra. There are usually additional incentives for those who form more
groups, lend more money, and maintain the highest repayment rates.
81. Osella and Osella (note 14).
82. Gidwani and Sivaramakrishnan (note 14).
83. C. Jeffrey, ‘Kicking Away the Ladder: Student Politics and the Making of an Indian Middle
Class’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26/3 (2008) pp. 517–536.
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Gender, Mobility and Financialisation 627
84. This is not to say that it is the only way for young men to assert themselves culturally and polit-
ically. Several scholars have pointed to other styles and arenas of masculinity including those associated
with criminal networks, religious nationalism, and student politics.
85. J. Morduch, ‘The Microfinance Promise’, Journal of Economic Literature 37/4 p. 1584. For
a critique of how ‘moral hazard’ arguments have been used to argue for the dismantling of public
sector programmes and promotion of microfinance see S. Young, ‘The Moral Hazards of Microfinance:
Restructuring Rural Credit in India’, Antipode 42/1 (2010) pp. 201–223.
86. This is not particular to any MFI but widespread practice. See Fernando (note 12).
87. V. A. Lawson (note 13). See also J. G. Townsend, Women’s Voices from the Rainforest (London,
New York: Routledge 1995).
88. A. Jaggar, ‘Vulnerable Women and Neo-Liberal Globalization: Debt Burdens Undermine
Women’s Health in the Global South’, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 23/6 (2002) pp. 1573–1200.
89. I am grateful to Vandana Desai for pushing me to think more carefully about how ‘empower-
ment’ is conceptualised and measured during a talk at Royal Holloway University. A full discussion of
the term is beyond the scope of this paper but see D. Narayan (ed.), Measuring Empowerment: Cross
Disciplinary Perspectives (Washington, DC: World Bank 2005); and, for a particularly innovative account,
S. Mahmood, Politics of Piety: the Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press 2005).
90. Y. B. Shakya and K. Rankin, ‘The Politics of Subversion in Development Practice: Microfinance
in Nepal and Vietnam’, Journal of Development Studies 44/8 (2008) pp. 1214–1235.
91. Young (note 85).
92. Secor (note 13).
93. See Young (note 85); and M. Moodie, ‘Enter Microcredit: A New Culture of Women’s
Empowerment in Rajasthan?’, American Ethnologist 35/3 (2008) pp. 454–465.
94. Sangtin Writers and R. Nagar (note 15).
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... Batiwala (2007) further details how women's collectives -popularly called self-help groups (SHGs, or samooh in Hindi) have been primary vehicles for empowerment work, and while initially used for critical consciousness raising to collectively question and rework oppressive power structures, they were largely transformed to focus on individualised microfinance interventions (see also Karim, 2011). Although a rich scholarship has analysed how this mélange of philosophical underpinnings has created ambivalent outcomes for rural SHG women who are disciplined as responsible financial subjects (Jakimow & Kilby, 2006;Kalpana, 2017;Rankin, 2001;Young, 2010), exposed to new, or re-entrenched forms of social hierarchisation (Mercer, 2002;Still, 2017), and take on new forms of debt and precarity (Karim, 2011;Sen & Majmuder, 2015), interest in using SHGs for not just microfinance but an array of development programmes continues to proliferate from development donors and global South governments (Gugerty et al., 2019, Nichols, 2021. ...
... Self-help groups, in particular, have been critiqued for leveraging instrumentalised approaches towards women's spatial mobility that rarely challenge dominant social-spatial orderings or broader gender norms (Devika & Thampi, 2011;Rankin 2001;Roy, 2019;Young, 2010). In South India, Young (2010) finds SHG spatialisations reproduce hegemonic gender ideologies, where women are encouraged to exercise limited mobility and stay close to home to not disrupt their social reproductive responsibilities. ...
... Self-help groups, in particular, have been critiqued for leveraging instrumentalised approaches towards women's spatial mobility that rarely challenge dominant social-spatial orderings or broader gender norms (Devika & Thampi, 2011;Rankin 2001;Roy, 2019;Young, 2010). In South India, Young (2010) finds SHG spatialisations reproduce hegemonic gender ideologies, where women are encouraged to exercise limited mobility and stay close to home to not disrupt their social reproductive responsibilities. Devika and Thampi (2011) similarly find that Keralan SHGs grant women new forms of mobility so long as they remain in supervised and surveilled settings (for urban work, see also Krishnan, 2020). ...
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Within the empowerment literature, “freedom of movement” or “mobility” are frequently used as indicators to assess empowerment programs, and assess whether women have become socially empowered. As women’s self‐help groups (SHGs) engaged in saving/lending and livelihood schemes have emerged as the de facto vehicles for women’s empowerment over the past two decades, their propensity for increasing women’s opportunities for mobility has been an oft‐lauded benefit. This has been especially pronounced as the empowerment agenda’s prerogative to collectively transform power structures became co‐opted by a neoliberal focus on fostering responsible financial subjects with entrepreneurial savvy. In this article, I draw on multi‐year ethnographic research of women’s SHG interventions in eastern and central India to critically explore the ways different mobile practices intersect with empowerment goals. I contend it is necessary to examine mobility as more than physical movement and also to analyse it as a meaning‐laden and embodied practice intimately bound up in neoliberal development agenda. Using this analytic I find that although newfound mobility is often experienced positively by women, it is far from ‘free,’ and remains embedded in power relations where women continue to engage on unfavourable terms‐ exemplified in women’s inability to leisurely tour/wander. I conclude by reflecting on how empowerment interventions might more productively engage mobility less as a practice of increased economic and political participation and more as a site where women can experiment with new forms of being.
... In this analysis, the subjectivities of borrowers are formed through the financial lens that reflects a set of values, moralities, logics and possibilities, which are fashioned to serve the needs of finance and to legitimize the financial epistemology (e.g. Guérin, 2012;Swidler and Watkins, 2008;Young, 2010). The financial epistemology regards the interpretation of the world through the lens of the financial investors (see also Chiapello, 2020). ...
... The financial epistemology regards the interpretation of the world through the lens of the financial investors (see also Chiapello, 2020). Such attempts to construct the realities, possibilities or moral values to serve the financial needs have been observed in Bangladesh, in India as well as in France (see Karim, 2011;Lazarus, 2020;Young, 2010). For example, Karim (2011) conducted an ethnographic investigation which found that the NGOs (which were ...
This chapter presents a case study on the financialization of development in Cambodia. It examines financial literacy as a tool in forming borrowers’ subjectivities. In order to do so, I observed 18 financial literacy training workshops (17 led by two major microfinance institutions (MFIs) and one led by a local non-governmental organization) and conducted 15 semi-structured interviews. These methods capture the process of forming subjectivities surrounding risk and debt responsibility. It also reveals how the local community either accepts or contests these formations. The data was collected between July and December 2017, in rural regions of Cambodia. The analysis shows that MFIs, through the discourse of an entrepreneurial mindset, attempt to construct a reality where risk and over-indebtedness are solely the responsibility of the borrower. The MFIs further this narrative by portraying over-indebted households as reckless and irresponsible. This chapter concludes that the observed financial literacy training merely serves as a tool to deepen the financialization of development in Cambodia. It deepens the financialization of development through reorienting development as a lack of financial resources. Such reorientation can impair citizens to imagine alternative possibilities for development which is beyond a lack of financial resource. In order to address this concern, the chapter suggests two possible alternatives: local communities could be strongly encouraged (1) to question the legitimacy and effectiveness of microfinance as a development strategy, and (2) to recognize that risks are often due to external forces. Through such countercurrent efforts, this chapter advocates for more solidarity with debt-distressed households to demand national mechanisms that allow systematic debt forgiveness, with a thorough evaluation and assessment tools.
... Development geographers in turn have focused on financial markets in the sphere of social reproduction by drawing on work in feminist economic anthropology and critical development studies. This work explains the kin and communal relations that underpin the agrarian household as a site of capitalist exploitation (Green and Estes, 2019;Rankin, 2001;Young, 2010a). Yet in both cases, there is a growing call for geographers to study how agrarian financial markets are shaped by processes, actors, and imperatives of a financial system operating across multiple scales (e.g., Guermond 2021;Harker 2020;Johnson 2021). ...
... Feminist development geographers, in particular, have demonstrated that the household itself has become a site of debt-based accumulation in the global south. This literature emphasizes the ways that neoliberal financial markets depend on the gender, kin, and community relations necessary for social reproduction (Brickell et al., 2020;Green and Estes, 2019;Harker, 2020;Rankin, 2013;Young, 2010a). Indeed, debt-financed social reproduction has intensified as a result of neoliberal development policy, which has either dismantled, or hindered, state-supported social programs, particularly healthcare and education, in favor of expanding private financial markets in the global south (Rankin, 2013;Soederberg, 2014). ...
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This article critically analyzes agrarian finance in terms of household credit and debt in the global south. I introduce interdisciplinary concepts about agrarian finance before reviewing how political ecologists and development geographers have studied this topic in relation to agricultural production, social reproduction, and farm mortgages and dispossession. To advance this research, I engage with financial geography scholarship about financial ecologies and variegated financial capitalism. I argue that agrarian finance is always embedded in the agricultural practices and interdependencies of rural life, but that such relations are increasingly shaped by global finance capital governed by institutions operating at multiple scales.
... Duvendack and Mader (2019: 7), in their systematic review, found that 'the effects of financial services on core economic poverty indicators such as incomes, assets or spending, and on health status and other social outcomes, are small and inconsistent'. Furthermore, far from the promised beneficial outcomes, microfinance has often been called into question for increasing the reliance of marginalized and lowincome workers, as well as unemployed or underemployed people, on credit for social reproduction (e.g., Soederberg, 2014;Taylor, 2012), reproducing inequalities and, specifically, unequal gender relations (e.g Kar, 2018;Roberts, 2015;Young, 2010), as well as causing extreme stress to its users (e.g., Rankin, 2013). This paper contributes to this critical literature on microfinance and further problematises the links between this development project and labour conditions. ...
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In this paper, we question the promotion of financial inclusion, and microfinance specifically, as a means to achieve ‘Decent Work’ (DW) under the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) programme. Drawing upon original research findings from two types of internal migrants in Cambodia, we make a twin contention: first, that excessive levels of microfinance borrowing by garment workers are part-outcome of the failings of the DW programme to engender ‘decent enough work’, and second, that microfinance borrowing is actually eroding rather than contributing to the prospect of decent work for debt-bonded brickmakers in the country. The data presented on two of the largest sectors contributing to Cambodia’s growth in recent decades, enable the paper to show how microfinance and labour precarity are intertwined through the over-indebtedness of workers in both cases. The paper ultimately looks to caution the ILO on its current promotion of financial inclusion and microfinance in particular, stressing the need for significant sectoral reforms before this form of credit can be considered to align with the core principles of the DW programme.
... Moreover, there is a sizeable geographic literature on microfinance, perhaps the most prominent form of private household debt in global South contexts. Much of this literature has thought through debt in terms of subjectivity (Rankin 2001) and mobility (Young 2010), among other concerns. This existing work on public and private debt, I think, had the potential to enrich the book's postcolonial theory of debt. ...
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Christopher Harker, Spacing Debt: Obligations, Violence, and Endurance in Ramallah, Palestine, Durham: Duke University Press, 2021. ISBN: 9781478010968 (paper); ISBN: 9781478009900 (cloth); ISBN: 9781478012474 (ebook) Debt presents us with a paradox. On the one hand, it creates hierarchy between debtors and creditors. On the other, it forms a basis for social connection. First identified by Marcel Mauss (2002) in The Gift, anthropologists have explored this paradox for well over a century, leading to a rich record of the diverse social life of debt. But what about a geography of debt? If social relations are always spatial-an axiom of human geography-then surely debt plays a role in constructing the spaces where we live and work. And if the social relations of debt are always hierarchical, then surely debt plays a role in constructing the uneven geographies of our contemporary world. It would thus seem that developing a theory of the mutually constitutive relation between debt and space is an important agenda for geographers. It is for this reason that readers of Antipode will welcome Christopher Harker's recent book, Spacing Debt, an in-depth ethnography of the everyday lives of non-elite Palestinians coping with debt. Since 2008, private debt has skyrocketed in Palestine, particularly in the city of Ramallah. In a context of de-development, wrought primarily by the Israeli occupation, Palestinians and their families have had few options but to take on mounting levels of debt to meet their daily needs and achieve their life aspirations. This indebtedness has led to what Harker dubs "financial crisis ordinariness" (p.125). Unlike the violent conflicts with Israel, which attract international headlines, living in debt in Palestine is a slow violence that pervades daily living. Debt creates a continuous, low hum of anxiety, foreclosing possible futures. However, informed by an array of feminist and postcolonial thinkers, Spacing Debt moves beyond this crisis narrative by highlighting how debt also helps many Palestinians endure difficult circumstances.
... Kar's book sits next to these without attempting a meaningful dialogue. Nor are the obvious links made to Bateman's (2010) influential critical reckoning with microfinance or to other social-scientific studies of Indian loan officers and their work, such as Young's (2010). If the book made those linkages -clarifying where Kar's analysis concurred or differed from theirs -this would have enabled (or perhaps forced) Kar to make a more distinct contribution to theoretical debates about the implications of microfinance and the financialisation of poverty, including explaining in what sense precisely poverty is being financialised. ...
Recently, large parts of India and the global South have experienced a rapid transformation from mud to cement houses, which has been promoted by governments and cement companies for its positive impacts on household socioeconomic status and gender inequalities. But we know little else about how different communities are participating in house transformation. In this paper, I study the embodied and affective dimensions of house transformation in Himachal Pradesh, India. I argue that house transformation is also the transformation of traditional gender and caste identities into new middle‐class identities which benefits some social groups, like upper‐caste women and Dalit men, but not others like Dalit women along intersectional lines. My work extends literature in infrastructure studies and urban political ecology by highlighting how the materiality of infrastructures interacts with everyday dimensions of difference to reproduce the marginalisation of historically oppressed groups along intersectional lines of class, caste, and gender.
This article examines microfinance as a development strategy designed to empower women and reduce poverty in the Global South. The discussion draws from feminism and development to critically analyze these lending programs in the context of persistent gender inequities and economic marginalization of women. Scholars, policymakers, and practitioners have different perspectives on the effectiveness of microfinance programs. Proponents of microfinance argue that these economic interventions assist in the development of small-scale economic activities, improve gender dynamics in households and communities, and empower women. In contrast, critics describe microfinance as an extension of neoliberal capitalism that exploits rather than empowers participants by increasing their debt burden and other forms of exploitation. The analysis addresses sociospatial and economic aspects of microfinance programs by examining the different approaches as reported in the empirical studies of microfinance programs that target women in the Global South. The discussion focuses on how microfinance impacts and is related to the following dimensions of women’s empowerment: economic empowerment and poverty reduction; investment and consumption; and decision-making and self-esteem. We argue that microfinance programs are embedded in and influence diverse aspects of these economic interventions in the development process. The conclusion summarizes how agency and change associated with these programs offer the potential for women’s empowerment at various scales and within diverse contexts of development.
This paper analyses the “arduous and contingent” process of creating the “preconditions” for financialised forms of development in urban Kenya. Building on a growing critical literature on how finance is shaping development in the global South, the paper traces the more‐or‐less concerted effort of an array of actors and intermediaries to create a functioning market for urban water services. Such efforts, which are justified through appeals to a “finance gap” are an attempt to connect capital seeking profitable investment opportunities with a sector long starved of funding. The pursuit of financialised models of water provision, however, is deepening the gulf between service areas that are deemed profitable (or potentially profitable) and those that are not. The paper argues that it is not lack of money, but an emerging system of water service provision which prioritises commercial principles and value extraction, that shapes where investment does (and crucially) does not flow.
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Contents Introduction Suman Nath and Debraj Bhattacharya Chapter 1 Institutional environment and organisational responses in changing decentralised governance systems in India: An ethnographic study Suman Nath Chapter 2 The Community Development Block and India’s Development Discourse Debraj Bhattacharya, Bhaskar Chakrabarti, Manish Thakur Chapter 3 Urban Restructuring, Forced Evictions and Transition of the Welfare City into Entrepreneurial City: The case study of Bawana resettlement Colony, Delhi Aparajita De and Jeetesh Rai Chapter 4 Mapping the Development Paradigm of Northeast India from Ancient Past to Present in the Realm of Political History and Economy Anjan Chakrabarti Chapter 5 A Multisited ethnography of land management in the context of the development policy in West Bengal Abhijit Guha Chapter 6 Revisiting Wittfogel: ‘Hydraulic Society’ in Colonial India and Its Postcolonial Legacies in Hydropower Management Arnab Roy Chowdhury and Sanjay Kumar Rajhans Chapter 7 Re-contextualizing Micro-credit: From Reinventing Development to the Financialization of Everyday Life. Sarasij Majumder and Debarati Sen Chapter 8 The Making of a Neglected Tropical Disease: Discourse on Snakebite and Its Medical Management in India Rahul Bhaumik Chapter 9 Negotiation by the Waste Pickers: In the Context of Socioeconomic and Cultural Marginalisation Nandini Sen Chapter 10 Dominant Party Rule, Development, and the Rise of Hindu Nationalism in West Bengal Subhasish Ray Chapter 11 Harnessing the Digital Revolution for Development: The Indian Experience Anit N. Mukherjee Chapter 12 Organisation Structure of Family Owned and Controlled Business Groups in India: Some Reflections on Theories and Policies of Corporate Governance Mohit Gupta
Everyday, around the world, women who work in the Third World factories of global firms face the idea that they are disposable. Melissa W. Wright explains how this notion proliferates, both within and beyond factory walls, through the telling of a simple story: the myth of the disposable Third World woman. This myth explains how young women workers around the world eventually turn into living forms of waste. Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism follows this myth inside the global factories and surrounding cities in northern Mexico and in southern China, illustrating the crucial role the tale plays in maintaining not just the constant flow of global capital, but the present regime of transnational capitalism. The author also investigates how women challenge the story and its meaning for workers in global firms. These innovative responses illustrate how a politics for confronting global capitalism must include the many creative ways that working people resist its dehumanizing effects.
This review examines the convergence of recent anthropological interests in gender, labor, and globalization. Attention to gender and gender inequality offers a productive strategy for the analysis of globalizing processes and their local variations and contestations. Contemporary ethnographic research explores multiple dimensions of labor and gender inequalities in the global economy: gendered patterns of labor recruitment and discipline, the transnational mobility and commodification of reproductive labor, and the gendered effects of international structural adjustment programs, among others. New and continuing research explores the diverse meanings and practices that produce a gendered global labor force, incorporating the perspectives of men and women, masculinities and femininities, and examines how these processes of gender and labor inequality articulate with other structures of subordination (such as ethnicity and nationality) to shape lived experiences of work and livelihood, exploitation and struggle, around the world.
In many poorer countries, middle classes are reshaping economic and political life, and nowhere is this process more evident than in postcolonial India. This paper uses ethnographic research on student politicians from rich farming backgrounds to reflect on class 'in the making'. Building on a critical reading of the work of Bourdieu, I document the ability of young men from rich farming families in western Uttar Pradesh to entrench their middle-class standing in the space of university politics. I pay particular attention to the local-level political networks through which upwardly mobile young men from rural middle-caste backgrounds seek to express, legitimate, and secure their power. The paper points to the imaginative and energetic manner in which middle classes in poorer countries may defend their interests within local politics. I stress the importance of studying middle-class formation relationally and with reference to the spatiality of power.