Abstract: This paper draws on fieldwork in North-West Bangalore amongst marginalized urban residents who enter circuits of debt and credit to navigate their place in the "world city." It draws on fieldwork with displaced residents of informal settlements that have been razed to construct "modern" apartments and with participants in informal finance networks known locally as “cheetis” Doing so it asks how gender and caste mediate the possibilities for more just urban futures.
While the dominant literature on gender and finance in Asia has focused on microfinance schemes (Karim 2012; Moodie 2008; Radhakrishnan 2018) and globally on the machinations of corporatized finance (Fisher 2010; Ho 2009), this paper shifts focus to consider how debt is emplaced within informal circuits of finance and embedded within urban infrastructures to become a way of life for an aspiring middle class. It thus argues for debt to understood as a characteristic feature of urban life within the development of the Asian speculative city (Goldman 2012) and one that is negotiated through forms of gendered and phatic labor (Elyachar 2010; Radhakrishnan 2015) and the desire for a middle-class life. It extends contemporary research on debt to focus on urban financial networks and offers ethnographic insights into how informal finance is located within translocal migration, neighborly relations, and gendered obligation.
About the speaker: Hemangini Gupta has a PhD in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (Emory University, 2016) and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, India, where she works on the National Science Foundation-funded Speculative Urbanism project, examining the entanglements of land, livelihoods, and finance capital in two Asian cities: Jakarta and Bangalore.