'After money, what is debt?': Indebted urban poor households in emerging cashless economies

New fiscal policies and anti-cash campaigns are being rapidly introduced both in the global North and South. They are eliminating cash transactions and replacing them with mobile and online payments, credit and debit cards, biometric payments, and virtual currencies.

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Poised at this significant juncture in global economic history, this project explores the impact of this financial turn towards cashlessness on the currently cash-reliant and indebted urban poor in middle and high income countries. Focusing on financial debt (or the condition of owing money), we analyse the ways in which poor households, across different cashless regimes, respond to the diminishing use of currency in modernising cities.

Building on the emerging anthropology of digital finance, this project aims to (a) empirically study how do cash-dependent urban poor households experience the drive towards cashlessness economically and socially; (b) explore the new skills, associations and competencies forged by the urban poor as a response to cashlessness; and (c) contribute theoretically to economic anthropology by analysing how the fading material value of coins and notes can influence localised debt relations in the city. “Before there was money, there was debt.” So argues Graeber (2011) in his book concerning the social and moral history of debt. He suggests that reciprocity and exchange determined the nature of social relations well before the circulation of coins and printed currency. This project poses the subsequent unexplored question: “After money, what is debt?”





































Name Title Phone E-mail
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Atreyee Sen Associate Professor +4535333882 E-mail
Camilla Ida Ravnbøl Postdoc +4535320484 E-mail

Funded by:

Independent Research Fund Denmark

The project have received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Project: 'After money, what is debt?': Indebted urban poor households in emerging cashless economies
Period:  2018-2021


Atreyee Sen
Department of Anthropology
Mail: atreyee.sen@anthro.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 33 38 82

Blog on cashlessness

The researchers behind the project have launched a blog, which discusses the social consequences of the gradual global transition to a cashless economy.

The blog named 'After money, what is debt? - Indebted urban poor households in emerging cashless economies' can be reached here: https://aftermoney.dk/.

Also read the news story introducing the blog: New blog looks at social consequences of a cashless economy

External members:

Name Title
Emilija Zabiliute Postdoc at University of Edinburgh
Marie Kolling Postdoc at Danish Institute for International Studies