Seminars and Events

Bonded labour and the agrarian question in Tamil Nadu.

Contribution to the Seminar "Agrarian Transformation in India: It’s Significance for Left Politics", Oxford University, 13-14th July, Oxford (UK).

Isabelle Guérin - August 2011

The state in Tamil Nadu has been one of the foremost in India to combine general industrial expansion policies with a strong set of welfarist anti-poverty measures. Despite this, bonded labor is still surprisingly commonplace, both in the farming and non-farming economy. This paper presents three explanatory factors for this apparent contradiction, developing the second and third in detail. Firstly, far from constituting structural reform, state welfare policies are in fact restricted to poverty management, and are thus entirely compatible with extreme regional and social inequalities. Secondly, it is argued that bonded labour is not only compatible with capitalism, but that it is both shaped by and constitutive of capitalism. Bonded labour’s coexistence with capitalism takes various shapes depending on the regions within the State and sectors in question. It is found in highly labor intensive industries, as with the example of brick kilns, but also in highly capitalistic sectors such as agro-industry. Thirdly, bonded labor not only stems from specific relationships of production, but it is also initiated and sustained through consumption and consumerism. Labourers, including the very poor, are also consumers, to increasing degrees. Moreover, in many cases their requirements are not met through wage increases, but by increases in the advances provided by recruitment agents and employers. Contemporary forms of bonded labor in Tamil Nadu therefore result from a specific mode of accumulation characterized by cheap labor, increased domestic demand sustained through household debt, and modes of conflict, contestation and worker identity formation that engage with both governmental programs and consumerism.

Book Review in French "Mujeres, finanzas sociales y violencia económica en zonas marginadas de Guadalajara

Solène Morvant-Roux - May 2011

Book review in French by Solène Morvant-Roux in the Revue Française de Socio-Économie:

Magdalena Villareal Martínez (2009), Mujeres, finanzas sociales y violencia económica en zonas marginadas de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Instituto Jalisciense de las Mujeres/Instituto Municipal de las mujeres en Guadalajara, 171 p.

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Forthcoming: "Over-indebtedness and financial inclusion"

Isabelle Guérin, Solène Morvant-Roux, Magdalena Villarreal - February 2011

Brief summary of the book:

For some time, the world has shown concern about the increasing rate at which household debt has grown, particularly after the detonation of the mortgage crisis. Nowadays, overindebtedness habitually makes it to the headlines, particularly in the big metropolis.

Meanwhile, in rural Asia, Africa and Latin America, “financial inclusion”, is increasingly becoming the goal of development projects, and the focus is on credit. Microfinance flourishes in quite remote areas. Aggressive competition between credit providers for the poor takes place in the context of the generalized slowdown in economic growth, the impact of which has been understudied. Can we speak of over-indebtedness in geographical areas that have traditionally been considered “financially excluded”? If so, how is it dealt with? How shall we define it? What effects has it produced? What can it tell us about the workings of financial systems amongst poverty stricken populations?

This edited volume addresses these questions, considering practices, processes, the ways in which these are signified by those actively involved, and their economic, financial, social and cultural implications.

Based on case studies in different parts of the world, the authors engage in a dialogue about how to tackle this complex phenomenon conceptually and empirically. They draw on three different disciplines (namely history, anthropology and political economy).

The volume proposes a broad definition of over-indebtedness, highlighting its situational and semantic complexity and diversity. Notably, it is approached as a process of both economic and social impoverishment through debt. Over-indebtedness moreover varies in form according to socio-economic and political contexts, local cultures, individual and collective identities, and social differentiations such as class, gender, ethnicity and religion. As a result, the multiplicity of creditor-debtor relations, the interplay of market and non-market debts and the variegated forms of juggling that people resort to in order to make ends meet are all explored. The volume proposes various methods of measure, whilst highlighting their distance from ordinary people’s perceptions. It provides a close analysis of local conceptions of debt and over-indebtedness, highlighting frameworks of calculation and the constant renegotiation of their boundaries. It also stresses how well-being, dignity and honor play as important a role as financial indicators such as payment arrears or debt services. Finally, the volume argues that over-indebtedness should be understood in the light of global trends of financialization, understood here as the expanding role played by finance in economic activity and ordinary life, including for the poor. One macro analysis shows that over-indebtedness has less to do with financial illiteracy than social inequalities. Another reveals the ambiguity of financial inclusion policies, and in many respects questions the role of new credit providers.

In short, this book addresses a potentially hazardous issue for the impoverished in the world. It does so with care, covering new ground in the interdisciplinary analysis of debt and overindebtedness, suggesting fresh ways of analyzing finance for the low income sectors of the world’s population, and offering novel contributions to current debates about policies for financial inclusion.


Circulation of labour and spatial dimensions of power: the case of Palamur labourers in Andhra Pradesh

Anthropology of work and labour seminar, London School of Economics (LSE), UK, 19 january 2010. David Picherit - January 2011

Circulation of labour and spatial dimensions of power: the case of Palamur labourers in Andhra Pradesh

Shifting narratives between fit and injured bodies: Labour and health in debt-bondage relationships.

American Anthropological Association (AAA), Panel Embodied Economies: Critical Intersections of Work and Health, New Orleans (U.S), 17-21 novembre 2010. David Picherit - November 2010

Alcohol, masculinities and labour: The everyday politics of drinking and complexities of power in rural South India.

Contemporary South Asia Seminar, Oxford Department of International Development, Université d’Oxford, 28 octobre 2010 David Picherit - October 2010

When manual labourers go back to their village: Labour migration and protection in rural South India.

European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies (ECMSAS), Panel Contemporary and Historical Aspects of Labour Regulations and Labour Standards, Université de Bonn (Allemagne), 26-29 juillet 2010. David Picherit - July 2010

Un microcrédit pour une vache et le micracle n’aura pas lieu. Histoire d’une innovation en Inde du Sud

Symposium Innovation and Sustainable Development in Agriculture and Food, Montpellier, June-July 28-1, 2010. Marc Roesch - July 2010

L’article se propose de montrer comment, à partir d’une idée simple, prometteuse, les processus d’appropriation tant au niveau des familles rurales que des organisations chargés de la mettre en oeuvre sont d’une grande complexité (...).


From debt to over-indebtedness in southern countries: Processes, practices and meanings

Birmingham University’s Fourth Microfinance meeting, May 26, 2010. Solène Morvant-Roux - May 2010

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UK company providing interim finance for repossession

Some companies including TIC finance provide interim short term finance to those who have money stuck in other assets and require quick assistance in paying the lending institution.

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Microfinance and self-employment in rural South-India: analysis of a failure

International conference "The informal sector and informal employment", Hanoi, Vietnam, May 6-7, 2010. Isabelle Guérin - May 2010

Based on several field studies conducted in rural areas in Tamil Nadu over the last five years, and using mainly a socioeconomic approach, this paper shows that microfinance effects on self-employment are very limited. On the one hand, microloans are largely used for purposes that do not generate direct income (health, education, repayment of old debts, etc.). On the other hand, there is very little potential for the expansion of self-employment. Notwithstanding households’ risk aversion, the functioning of local markets is a key explanatory factor, especially the lack of local demand and then the hierarchical structure and the social segmentation of local markets.

Dialogue anthropologie/économie pour analyser les interactions entre finance et emploi : analyse d’un processus et premiers résultats

Journée d’études au Centre Maurice Halbwachs (ENS-EHESS-CNRS), Quantitatif/Qualitatif : En finir avec une opposition contre-productive, Paris, May 3, 2010. Isabelle Guérin, Bert D’Espallier, Solène Morvant-Roux - May 2010

Solidarité, protection et migration dans les villages indiens de l’Oaxaca et du Guerrero

Conference IHEID "Comprendre la solidarité", Geneva, May 6-8, 2010. Solène Morvant-Roux, Annabelle Berthaud - April 2010

Determinants of financial services’ use: Evidence from rural Morocco

Seminar CERMI, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, April 30, 2010. Solène Morvant-Roux - April 2010

Le retour des travailleurs migrants au village : Contestation et clientélisme en Inde du sud

Seminar UMR 201 « Développement et Sociétés », Jardin Tropical d’Agronomie de Paris, April 14, 2010. David Picherit - April 2010

Roundtable discussion on "Microfinance and Employment"

70th Annual meeting of the Society of Applied Anthropology, Mérida, Mexico, March 24-27, 2010. Magdalena Villarreal, Gerardo Rodriguez Solis, Lourdes Angulo - March 2010

The participation of three members of the RUME project at this meeting was the organization of a roundtable discussion on "Microfinance and Employment", which took place on the 25th of March at the 70th Annual meeting of the Society of Applied Anthropology, Mérida, Mexico.

Issued which were analyzed by the participants are summarized on the document attached.

Outline of the roundtable

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Spatial inequalities and financial inclusion dynamic’s in India: Liberalisation, microfinance and safety net

Contemporary South Asia seminar, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, February 25, 2010. Cyril Fouillet - February 2010

The main objective of this paper is to assess the reach and limits of microfinance as a safety net in India after the reforms of the banking sector in the 1990’s. Three sub-objectives will structure the paper: one, theoretical, the second, methodological and the third, practical. Theoretically, through the example of the Self-Help Group Movement in India (a movement which represents the two thirds of microfinance supplied in India), and from a spatial perspective, this paper illustrates the theoretical proposition of H. Weber’s that microfinance: “functions as political safety-net, containing or dampening resistance at the community level to liberalisation policies and economic austerity measures.” (Weber, 2002).

Indebtedness and over-indebtedness in the context of poor rural South-Indian households

Seminar at Bath University, Dept of Economics and International Development, February 19, 2010. Isabelle Guérin - February 2010

Indebtedness and over-indebtedness in the context of poor rural South-Indian households

Contemporary South Asia seminar, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, February 18, 2010.

Isabelle Guérin, Bert D’Espallier, Marc Roesch, Venkatasubramanian - February 2010 Drawing on field work done in rural south-India, where consumer credit has dramatically increased over the last decade, the presentation focuses on local perceptions of debt and over-indebtedness. The authors suggest that household strategies and practices as regards debts are motivated more by maintaining one’s creditworthiness than by paying off debts. Maintaining one’s creditworthiness is both a guarantee against vulnerability and risk, and a matter of self-dignity. The fabric of creditworthiness is a mix of structural differentiations and singular contingencies. It seems that caste, class, gender and space are important factors of differentiation. But then these various factors are interpreted, translated and negotiated according to individual trajectories and personal sensitivities.

Negotiating Hierarchies in Urban and Rural Settings: Seasonal Labour Migration and Caste in South India

Seminar at the School of Global Studies, Geography Research Seminar, University of Sussex, February 25, 2010. David Picherit - February 2010

Microfinance and women’s empowerment in rural South-India: do relationships between women matter?

Workshop "Microfinance’s Contribution to Development Studies", ULB/Oxford University, Brussels, January 14-15, 2010. Isabelle Guérin, Santosh Kumar - January 2010

The principal aim of this paper is two fold. First, we highlight the subjective aspects underpinning empowerment and its specific meanings in the context studied here. Patriarchy is characterized by strong male domination but also by ambiguous relationships between women where solidarity, competition and rivalry coexist. Women’s primary goals within the household and regarding men seem more a matter of status, dignity and respect than of power per se. Power is sought, but this is expressed mainly in relation to other women. On-going conflicts within women and power hierarchies are observed with respect to kin relationships and neighbourhood relationships. Secondly, we describe the diversity of patterns with regards to microcredit. A comprehensive description of the context and complexity of gender relationships, understood here as the whole set of women’s relationships with both men and women, will help facilitate an understanding of diversity in microloan use and appropriations.

Jeunes éduqués en zone rurale : castes, classes et nouvelles formes de migration en Inde du sud

Séminaire MIDAS-CNRS, Villejuif, October 13, 2009. David Picherit - September 2009

Cette présentation s’intéresse aux nouvelles formes de mobilité des jeunes « éduqués » de basse et de haute caste dans le district de Mahabubnagar en Andhra Pradesh, réputé pour les migrations de travailleurs asservis pour dette. Dans un contexte de politisation accrue des basses castes et de transformations des rapports sociaux au travail, les jeunes de basse caste d’un village de ce district ont accédé depuis une dizaine d’années au système scolaire. Cet accès ne débouche toutefois sur aucun emploi conforme aux attentes et exigences de ces nouveaux lettrés. Ce passage par le système scolaire renforce néanmoins les volontés d’émancipation et d’affirmation de ces jeunes, volontés qui se confrontent aux résistances des hautes castes, mais aussi des travailleurs manuels au sein de leurs propres castes. L’étude des rapports quotidiens, oscillant entre conflit, camaraderie et résistance, nous permettra de décrire les luttes de prestige et de statut au sein du village, dans lesquelles les nouvelles formes de migration jouent un rôle essentiel. Nous questionnerons ainsi, à travers les attitudes corporelles et orales, les rapports changeants à la migration, au travail manuel et à la consommation de ces jeunes.

The Meanings of Social Mobility and Migration: Young Educated Migrants Back in their Village

Guest Lecture, Seminar of Sociology, Central University of Pondicherry, August 25, 2009. David Picherit - August 2009

This talk is concerned with the return of young educated labourers, from low and upper castes, in their own village, after few months of migration. I intend to examine how those young workers perceive and give meanings to social mobility and migration, while being confronted to power relationships in their village, but also to internal obligations from their own kin and caste fellows.

First European Research Conference on Microfinance

CERMi, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, June 2-4, 2009.

The First European Research Conference on Microfinance, organized by CERMI took place in Brussels on 2-3-4 june, 2009. While Jean-Michel Servet was one of the keynote speakers, and Isabelle Guérin at the plenary session, Magdalena Villareal won the prize for the best paper of the conference. Different members of the RUME project participated to this conference. More information on the conference: More information on the papers presented by the members.

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Microfinance and intra-household management

CERMi Research Seminars in Microfinance, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, March 31, 2009. Isabelle Guérin - March 2009

Microfinance and intra-household management

ONG, microcrédit et appui aux femmes micro-entrepreneurs : qui donne du pouvoir à qui ? L’exemple de l’Inde du Sud

Séminaire du LISE (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Sociologie Economique), « Dynamiques entrepreneuriales, micro-crédit et économie solidaire. Le sud à l’épreuve de la mondialisation », CNAM, Paris, February 5, 2009.

A partir d’études de cas menées en Inde du Sud, cet article met en évidence l’ambiguïté de projets de développement supposés lutter contre les inégalités de genre et promouvoir l’« empowerment » des femmes via une combinaison de mesures financières (microfinance), économiques (accès aux marchés, création de coopératives), sociales (formation à l’entrepreneuriat, au leadership, sensibilisation à la question des droits, etc.) et politiques (mobilisations collectives diverses pour la revendication de droits).

Microfinance and Informal Finance: Substitution or Leverage Effect?

CERMI, Brussels, December 8, 2008. Isabelle Guérin - December 2008

Everyday Life of Labour Intermediaries in South India : Prestige, Loyalty and Authority.

Workshop at ULB (Belgium) / December 5, 2008 David Picherit - December 2008

Summary of the communication of David Picherit. Beyond a structural perspective on labour intermediaries, this presentation will give an account of everyday life and work of the maistri himself in order to detail the social relationships between maistri, labourers, patrons and contractors and, more broadly, to explore how the organisation of labour circulation is partly shaped and transformed by maistris and labourers.

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Microfinance : une "discipline" diversement accueillie en Chine et en Inde

Conférence "Les mots du développement : genèse, usages et trajectoires", Université Paris IX-Dauphine, Paris, November 13-14, 2008. Cyril Fouillet, Thierry Pairault - November 2008

Paris Dauphine, in partnership with Paris IX, organized a two-days conference on the “Words of the development discourse” in Paris, France, on December 13-14, 2008. Cyril Fouillet and Thierry Pairault presented a paper on microfinancial disciplines and constraints in China and India.

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Microfinance, Indebtedness and Overindebtedness

European Microfinance Week, Luxembourg, 13 Nov 2008 Isabelle Guérin - November 2008

Drawing on a socioeconomic and comprehensive approach (with a mix of longitudinal analysis, quantitative and qualitative data collected in south India) this paper explores the effects of microfinance on pre-existing indebtedness and informal financial practices. Substitution does occur, but only amongst a portion of clients and it rapidly reaches a threshold effect for “technical” reasons as well as social reasons. For other clients, microfinance has a leverage effect: it contributes through various channels to improve the creditworthiness of the borrower and increases the range of their financial opportunities to well beyond microcredit alone. This widening of choices probably allows for improved daily financial management, but there are also risks, in particular in terms of over-indebtedness.

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Spatial Analysis of Agricultural Finance and Microfinance: The Case of India

Boulder Bergamo Forum on Assess to Financial Services, Expanding the Rural Frontier. Bergamo, September 18-20, 2008. Cyril Fouillet - September 2008

Our presentation addresses the financing of Indian agriculture. It describes the localization and evolution of financing in this sector while attempting to determine the role of microfinance. The objective is to advance knowledge of both agricultural finance and microfinance by integrating the spatial element. Cartographic analysis and symbol maps cross several variables and permit us to better visualize the extremely heterogeneous situation in this country, which concentrates one-sixth of humanity.

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Group lending in South-India. A Gender Perspective

Seminar on Gender mainstreaming in Microfinance: current debates and innovation, Centre for European Research in Microfinance, Brussel, May 16, 2008. Isabelle Guérin - May 2008

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Microfinance and Rural Credit in India.

Séminaire d’économie de la Chine - Centre d’Etudes sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS. April 15, 2008. Cyril Fouillet - April 2008

This conference was held at the Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) on April 15 2008. Cyril Fouillet’s presentation has given a general overview of the microfinance sector and rural credit India. The analytical approach was inter-disciplinary and put a range of different perspectives into contact. The overall objective was to better understand microfinance construction in India.

Spread of the SHG Banking Linkage Programme in India

Internationale Conference on Rural Finance Research: Moving Results, FAO-IFAD, Rome, March 19-21, 2008. Cyril Fouillet, Britta Augsburg - March 2007

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