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The Dynamism of Debt in Everyday Life

This proposed panel seeks to explore the multiple meanings, diverse purposes, and complex consequences of debt across a range of African societies. Debts are arguably similar to gifts with regard to the dynamic and sometimes contradictory ways that they reflect, affect, and help constitute social relations. Compare to gifts, however, debts are much less thoroughly studied or theorized. Papers in this panel will explore the social salience of debt, situating it in particular contexts while also examining debt as a conceptual category that offers theoretical insights into the inextricably intertwined, if often also contradictory, intersection of trust and betrayal in human relations in diverse settings and spanning multiple scales. The papers will examine debt from different disciplinary perspectives, in diverse cultural contexts, and with various methodological approaches. They will provide a rich tapestry for observing and analyzing the ways that debt is a core social phenomenon that entails both prosocial values and practices and their underbelly. In this way, the study of debt is shown to be a revealing window into everyday life, both empirically and theoretically.

Please indicate your interest and share a proposed title and a draft abstract by or before March 10, so that I have a week in which to finalize and submit a panel proposal with papers included. Please send any questions and your titles and proposed abstracts to my email address: daniel_j_smith@brown.edu. Papers at any stage in relation to one’s research process are welcome — exploratory, mid-project, or post-publication — are welcome. If you know of colleagues who might be interested in this panel, please feel free to share this with them.