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'Deeper into a hole?': borrowing and lending in South Africa

James, Deborah ORCID: 0000-0002-4274-197X (2014) 'Deeper into a hole?': borrowing and lending in South Africa. Current Anthropology, 55 (S9). pp. 17-29. ISSN 0011-3204

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Identification Number: 10.1086/676123


In South Africa, with upward mobility much aspired-to but seldom attained, householders must spend money they have not yet earned. Borrowing both from formal institutions and smaller moneylenders (legal and illegal) positions them uneasily: in order to fulfill social requirements in one register, they acquire intensified obligations in another. Moneylending and money borrowing, owing much to the legacies of “credit apartheid”, involve an uneven mix. Embeddedness and community connection enable flexibility, juggling, and temporary escape from repayment obligations, on the one hand. Systems of repayment and ever-newer technologies enable creditors to pursue debtors with inexorable swiftness, on the other. Given that credit post-apartheid has an increasingly formal, uniform, and financialized character, the second of these – which makes debtors get “deeper into a hole” – is becoming a predominant way of experiencing and representing the situation. The term, with its suggestion of entrapment, captures an important aspect of the deeply ambivalent feelings that borrowers experience in the face of debt.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2014 16:11
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2024 23:12
Projects: RES-062-23-1290
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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