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Session Overview
RN06_06a: A Feminist Political Economy of Precarisation and Indebtedness
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Anne Engelhardt, Kassel University
Session Chair: Gerardo Costabile Nicoletta, University of Naple Federico II
Location: GM.332
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Bad Debts, Good Profits: A Feminist Political Economy of Distressed Debt Markets in Europe

Caroline Metz

Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, United Kingdom

In the post-2008 period, Europe has witnessed rising levels of consumer debt defaults. European policymakers and financial regulators fear that these ‘non-performing loans’ (NPLs) will affect banks’ profitability, and financial stability more broadly. To deal with this, they propose to facilitate and promote the sale and securitisation of NPLs — in other words, the financialisation and marketisation of distressed debts. In this paper, I focus on the emergence of European distressed debt markets which involve large European banks and US-based private equity firms, as well as loan servicing firms in charge of collecting and enforcing debt payments. Combining insights from social studies of finance interested in the construction of markets with feminist materialist accounts of the financialisation of social reproduction and the gendered dynamics of debt defaults and debt collection practices, I explore how recent EU regulatory developments aiming to promote these markets and bolster the role of cross-border loan servicers have conflicted with debtor protection rules. Overall, I argue that distressed debt markets constitute not only a source of profit for financial firms specialised in the ‘bad debt business’, but also a threat to consumers and borrowers. The intensified state-backed financialisation of social reproduction in the era of austerity is thus set to continue to fail the majority while benefiting the few.

Precarious Social Reproduction In Greece: Households, Utility indebtedness And Gendered Subjects

Aliki Koutlou

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the proliferation of austerity policies, we are witnessing a deepening of what feminist political economists term a crisis of social reproduction. An important consequence of this crisis is the increasing inability of households to cover their needs without falling into debt. While household debt accrued through credit has been widely studied by feminist political economists, there is another form of household debt that remains under-researched: utility debt. This paper enquires into utility debt from a feminist political economy lens and seeks to unearth the ways in which social reproduction and utility indebtedness intersect. Starting from a conceptualisation of the household as the infrastructure of social reproduction, the paper argues that utility indebtedness is both a macro-structural phenomenon emerging from the structuring of social reproduction by states and markets and a lived or embodied phenomenon which is experienced by household members in different ways. By drawing from empirical research in Greece, the paper situates the reorganisation of social reproduction in its increasing privatisation. It also suggests that this process renders households increasingly responsible around the organisation of social reproduction at a material and a symbolic level. The symbolic responsibilisation of households operates through the proliferation and consolidation of a neoliberal common sense. This neoliberal common sense coupled with logics of austerity and debt structures the ways in which household members, and particularly women, understand themselves as utility indebted and shapes the ways in which women align to specific subject positions.

Gendered Experiences of Debt and Labor in Greece and Turkey

Pelin Kilincarslan

Koç University, Turkey

The topic of debt needs almost no introduction today. Since the financial crash of 2008, there has been a growing interest in the alarming figures of household debt and their political-economic underpinnings in the context of advanced capitalist countries. Critical scholars argue that easier availability of financial means, weak schemes of social protection, increased commodification of reproductive work, and growing inequalities have all played a role in the growth of reliance on debt. However, very little of this scholarship has paid attention to the gender dimensions of indebtedness and the deepening of debt, not necessarily in securitized forms, in non-core contexts. Locating indebtedness in the nexus of power, production, and social reproduction from a feminist perspective, this study explores how indebtedness shapes women’s labor within or beyond the household and how women’s experiences connect to the broader political-economic context and are informed by local, cultural practices. It draws on in-depth interviews with women who are residents of indebted households in Athens, Greece and Istanbul, Turkey, two countries with the highest rates of household indebtedness growth and household consumption in the OECD but different from one another in terms of gender inequality patterns. These cases show that indebtedness affects the ways in which women undertake reproductive work and participate in informal and formal employment, and these experiences are altered by welfare and employment regimes, labor market structures, and hegemonic gender norms and practices in the household and the society.

The Italian Feminist Movement And The Challenge Of Intersectionality

Marta Panighel1, Alina Dambrosio Clementelli2

1Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy; 2Independent researcher

This paper aim is to study the application of the concept of intersectionality in Italian contemporary feminist movement. From the Argentinian movement Ni Una Menos, to the US #MeToo, from the referendum on abortion in Ireland to the protests of female workers in India, in the last three years feminism has experienced a new renaissance.

In Italy, the movement Non Una Di Meno is claiming struggles’ intersectionality as one of the fundamental components of its activism. This claim marks a radical gap between Non Una Di Meno and the historical Italian feminism, which focused for a long time on sexual difference theory. The combined lecture of gender, race and class’ oppression as interlocking categories – building and enforcing each other – seemed far-sighted and necessary at a time when the alliance between a neoliberal restructuring of work and the advance of the far-right is increasingly evident.

In a country that has not yet fully come to terms with its colonial past, how has the concept of intersectionality entered the vocabulary and imaginary of Italian feminists? In the light of the criticisms of Black, Chicana, decolonial and postcolonial feminists of the so-called "white feminism", how does the Italian feminist movement theorize its belonging to a transnational movement without falling into the false myth of "universal sisterhood"?

Through the lens of Intersectional Feminism, Postcolonial Critique and Public Sociology, this paper questions the possible theoretical and practical contribution that a non-Eurocentric Sociology can offer to what appears to be one of the strongest contemporary social movements.

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