The social unit of debt: Gender and creditworthiness in Paraguayan microfinance

by Caroline E. Schuster

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By Caroline E. SchusterFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12095/abstract


(image:
http://americanethnologist.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/07/schuster-money-600px-300x200.jpg alt: The treasurer of a “committee of women entrepreneurs” counts her group’s weekly microcredit payment, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, July 29, 2010. Photo by Caroline E. Schuster.

The treasurer of a “committee of women entrepreneurs” counts her group’s weekly microcredit payment, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, July 29, 2010. Photo by Caroline E. Schuster.

) The treasurer of a “committee of women entrepreneurs” counts her group’s weekly microcredit
payment, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, July 29, 2010. Photo by Caroline E. Schuster.Paraguayan microcredit poverty-alleviation programs are built around instrumentalizing women’s economic ties through group-based loans guaranteed by no more than the promise of women’s solidarity and joint liability for their collective loan repayment. I track the production and regulation of the social unit of borrowing in different aspects of microcredit, drawing on examples of individual loans, loans to “committees of women entrepreneurs,” credit scores, and a short-lived program of “men’s committees.” I illustrate how the institutionalized management of creditworthiness actually produces the very flexible and relational feminized borrowers to which microcredit initiatives seek to appeal and, in so doing, creates certain kinds of gendered sociality by enacting and embodying different social units of debt.