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Speaker(s): Professor Laura Bear, Professor Deborah James, Dr Ryan Davey
Chair: Dr Alpa Shah

Recorded on 1 March 2017 at Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House

In this talk, academics and activists will come together around the issues of debt and austerity. From the LSE’s Department of Anthropology, Laura Bear, Deborah James and Ryan Davey will present findings from their research on debt and its relation to austerity in different contexts and at different scales. Drawing on her fieldwork in India, Laura Bear will discuss the value placed on sovereign debt repayments in places governed in the name of austerity, and the inequalities this produces. Deborah James will discuss how changes in regulation and policy have combined with public/voluntary-sector institutional practices, such as debt advice, to shape the terrain of indebtedness in South Africa and the UK. Ryan Davey (ESRC-funded post-doc) will speak about the consequences of austerity policy for how free-to-client debt advice is done in the UK, which encompasses the effects of austerity on both ordinary people’s economic circumstances and on debt advice providers’ ability to secure funding. A common thread running through these three bodies of research is how policy-makers and public-sector workers respond when an identification of over-indebtedness is made, at either the level of households, or that of the nation-state, or both.

Exploring the implications of their research for policy and practice, they will be joined by colleagues from the radical activist group, Debt Resistance UK, and the anti-poverty charity, Toynbee Hall. Debt Resistance UK have pioneered investigations in the UK into borrowing and debt repayment done by local authorities, thus bridging between the household and national scales, and will speak about the multiple ways in which they struggle against the oppressive aspects of debt – from citizens’ debt audits to a people’s jubilee. Toynbee Hall, which provides a debt advice service in East London, will address the controversial question of whether, in the UK’s current political and economic climate, debt advice providers could ever advocate for debt cancellation or debt non-payment. Together, the speakers will seek to identify some of the possible alternatives to today’s debt-based economy.

Laura Bear is Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and author of Navigating Austerity.

Ryan Davey is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Deborah James is Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Fanny Malinen is a London-based independent journalist and social justice activist. She is part of the research and activist group Debt Resistance UK.

Carl Packman is Research and Good Practice Manager at Toynbee Hall.

Alpa Shah is Associate Professor (Reader) in the Department of Anthropology at at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

LSE's Anthropology Department (@LSEAnthropology), with a long and distinguished history, remains a leading centre for innovative research and teaching.

LSE Works is a series of public lectures, that will showcase some of the latest research by LSE's academic departments and research centres. In each session, LSE academics will present key research findings, demonstrating where appropriate the implications of their studies for public policy. A list of all the LSE Works lectures can be viewed at LSE Works.

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