Peer lending and the subsumption of the informal

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24 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: The informal financial practices of financially ‘excluded’ groups in the United States are being enrolled in a regulatory project to make new markets and produce financially self-sufficient subjects on the edges of the financial system. Drawing on mixed-methods qualitative research working with nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area, this paper explores how informal rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs) are being repurposed and formalized to make the risks of financially excluded groups legible, tractable and priceable for ‘mainstream’ financial service providers. In so doing, the paper explores how the credit score orders practices and relations that are ‘outside’ of the ‘financial mainstream’. While others have documented how the efforts of NGOs to marketize and commodify the social networks and cultural practices of the poor result in forms of dispossession, this is not what my research finds. Instead, I show how formalized ROSCAs are redistributing calculative agency, and enabling financially underserved groups to exert strategic control over the calculation of their credit scores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-276
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2016


  • Biopolitics
  • capitalism
  • financialization
  • governmentality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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