Cre-debt: Urban poverty, new credit economies and the global war on cash – University of Copenhagen

Cre-debt: Urban poverty, new credit economies and the global war on cash

New fiscal policies and anti-cash campaigns are being rapidly introduced across the globe, and in many platforms debating changes in capitalist economies, this strident economic drive is referred to as ‘the global war on cash’. These forms of demonetization are eliminating cash transactions and replacing them with mobile and online payments, cryptocurrencies, credit and debit cards, and alternative economies of exchange. Poised at this significant juncture in global economic history, this collaborative project explores the potential impact of this financial turn towards cashlessness on the currently cash-reliant urban poor in middle and high income countries. Focusing on financial debt (the condition of owing money), the project will analyse the ways in which poor households across different cashless regimes, respond to the diminishing use of currency in modernising cities.

The project aims to (a) empirically study the financial challenges faced by households with informal, cash-based livelihoods within cashless economies; (b) explore the new skills, associations and competencies forged by the urban poor as a response to cashlessness; and (c) theorize how the fading material value of coins and notes can influence localised debt relations in the city.

We refer to the financial wisdom and creative skills that emerge (and fizzle out) around access, use and understanding of new money in the city as urban ‘cre-debt’: a transitional state in the spectrum of formal credit and informal debt mapped onto the socio-economic lives of the urban poor.

The empirical case studies embedded in the current project are based in the context of briskly evolving cashless urban economies in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Project PI

Atreyee Sen
Phone: +45 35 33 38 82

Project partners are based at:

  • Stockholm University, Department of Social Anthropology
  • University of Southern Denmark, Marketing and Management
  • University of Helsinki, Department of History
  • University of Oslo, Department of Social Anthropology

Project period: February 2018 - March 2019