Financializing Poverty: labour and risk in Indian microfinance

Hosted by the Department of International Development

Staff Common Room, 5th Floor, Old Building


Dr Sohini Kar

Dr Sohini Kar

Assistant Professor of International Development at the London School of Economics

Professor Deborah James

Professor Deborah James

Professor in the Department of Anthropology

Dr Kate Meagher

Dr Kate Meagher

Associate Professor in Development Studies


Professor Kenneth Shadlen

Professor Kenneth Shadlen

Professor of Development Studies

Celebrating the release of Sohini Kar’s book Financialising Poverty: Labor and Risk in Indian Microfinance from Stanford University Press. The event will feature comments by the author, with comments by Deborah James from LSE's Department of Anthropology. The discussion will be followed by a reception. 

Financialising Poverty: Labor and Risk in Indian Microfinance reveals how MFIs have restructured debt relationships in new ways. On the one hand, they have opened access to new streams of credit. However, as the network of finance increasingly incorporates the poor, the "inclusive" dimensions of microfinance are continuously met with rigid forms of credit risk management that reproduce the very inequality the loans are meant to alleviate. Moreover, despite being collateral-free loans, the use of life insurance to manage the high mortality rates of poor borrowers has led to the collateralization of life itself. Thus the newfound ability of the poor to use MFI loans has entrapped them in a system dependent not only on their circulation of capital, but on the poverty that threatens their lives. 

Hashtag for the event: #LSEMicrofinance

About the speakers:

Dr Sohini Kar (@KarSohini ) is a socio-cultural anthropologist focusing on economic anthropology of South Asia. In particular, she looks at the impact of increasing financialization on poverty and development programs.  In addition to her work on microfinance, she has written about women in finance, and on India’s financial inclusion policy, and its relation to social welfare programmes. She is currently working on financial activism and its impact on development goals.

Professor Deborah James (@djameslse) is a specialist in the anthropology of South and Southern Africa, and has recently begun research at some sites in the UK. Her work is broadly political and economic in focus. She am currently directing an ESRC-funded project entitled An ethnography of advice: between market, society and the declining welfare state

Dr Kate Meagher has expertise in the informal economy and non-state governance in Africa. She has carried out extensive empirical and theoretical research on cross-border trading systems and regional integration, the urban informal sector, rural non-farm activities, small-enterprise clusters, and informal enterprise associations, and has engaged in fieldwork in Nigeria, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her research focuses on the changing character of the informal economy in contemporary Africa, and the implications of economic informalization for development, democratization and globalization. 

About the chair:

Ken Shadlen is Professor of Development Studies in the Department of International Development of the London School of Economics and Political Science and is also currently Head of Department (September 2017-2020). He works on the comparative and international political economy of development, with a focus on understanding variation in national policy responses to changing global rules.

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