Compassion technology

Life insurance and the remaking of kinship in Swaziland's age of HIV

by Casey Golomski

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An emergent life insurance market in Swaziland is prompting some families to remake kinship as the entrustment of a generation of deceased relatives’ children. Coincident with high HIV/AIDS mortality and changing economic policies for the financial services sector, Swaziland saw an influx of foreign insurance companies in the early 2000s. Those companies offered incentives like burial coverage and cash stipends, and they compelled families’ legal adoption of children as orphans through the state, an ambiguous contrast to customary child entrustment and caregiving practices. I offer ethnographic insight on financialization in the global South and conceptualize insurance as a biopolitical, moralized “compassion technology,” which enveloped persons’ financial-legal obligations within humanitarian and global health discourses of social regeneration.