Kurzexposé zum Promotionsvorhaben von Anil Shah
Financial Ecologies of Poverty in Early 21st Century India
Financial inclusion has emerged as key international development approach in the early 21st century. In the aftermath of the North Atlantic Financial Crisis that erupted in 2007, the notion developed into a guiding rationale promoted by international organisations and fora such as the World Bank and G20. Far from entirely new, the discourse of ‘access to finance’ for low-income households builds on a legacy of microfinance as a panacea for development.
India is one of the most important frontiers for this endeavour, being home to a massive population of so-called ‘unbanked’ and ‘underserved’ in terms of formal financial services. The issue of ‘access to credit’ is pivotal to deepen financial markets and integrate previously excluded populations into the ambit of the global financial system. In recent years, the rationale for microfinance has shifted from income-generating loans for self-employed to broader notions of liquidity for the working poor to manage irregular income and expenditure patterns.
Most of the literature is divided into either policy-oriented studies which measure and endorse paths of financial inclusions on the one hand, and critical contributions fundamentally questioning microfinance and financial inclusion as part of neoliberal governance and the financialization of daily life on the other. While building on the latter, this thesis seeks to understand why and how microfinance could proliferate at such a high rate in India in recent decades.
In order to understand the co-evolution of local and global dynamics that shape the expansion of microfinance, this study investigates the livelihoods of migrant workers in urbanizing Bengaluru as case study. It thereby seeks to illuminate the labour-finance-nexus that has thus far received scant attention in the literature. One of the fastest growing cities in South Asia, Bengaluru is not only a vibrant hub for foreign capital inflows and economic growth. It is simultaneously a centre microfinance and a massive migrant labour force that is targeted by the former.
Beyond an understanding of the practices and behaviour of financial service providers and borrowers, this thesis employs a political economy perspective to embed India’s microfinance success story into the dynamics of (a) uneven capitalist development, (b) the rise of informal and precarious labour, (c) the persistence of a crisis of social reproduction, (d) and the neoliberal re-structuring of the Indian state. These four dimensions are conceptualized as central pillars to understand financial ecologies of poverty in early 21st century India.