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Mediating Indebtedness in South Africa

James, Deborah (2018) Mediating Indebtedness in South Africa. Ethnos, 83 (5). pp. 814-831. ISSN 0014-1844

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00141844.2017.1362450


When South Africa’s credit/debt landscape expanded during the 1990s, this was justified by some as a new form of inclusion but alleged by others to have intensified the power and profit of capitalism and acted to the detriment of householders, thus perpetuating ‘credit apartheid’. Yet blame cannot be so easily assigned. Forces of state and market have intertwined to create a redistributive neoliberalism, enabling brokers – who have played a key role in establishing the current credit/debt landscape - to insert themselves into the interstices of the system, making money by adding interest at every point in the value chain. Apartheid’s spatial separations meant that traders– and later informal moneylenders - relied on agents to bridge the gap between themselves and the rural/township world of economic informality. Even attempts at credit reform have been complicated, and stalled, by the ongoing presence of intermediaries. The paper explores this dynamic, illustrating how difficult it is to separate bad from good protagonists or perpetrators from victims.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors © CC BY 4.0
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2017 12:11
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:37
Projects: RES-062-23-1290
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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