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Suspensory indebtedness: temporality, morality and power asymmetry in experiences of unsecured consumer debt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-553
Number of pages23
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number4
DateAccepted/In press - 25 Jul 2019
DatePublished (current) - 29 Nov 2019


The power asymmetries operating through debt include not only the domination of conduct and the extraction of wealth but also unequal struggles to define value. Long-term ethnographic fieldwork on a low-income housing estate in southern England revealed a ‘suspensory’ approach to debt, in which those who cannot afford to comply with their creditors’ debt repayment demands suspend both the temporal point at which debts will end through repayment or enforcement and the dominant morality of repayment through amoral humour about being a bad debtor. This shows that the form of power asymmetry that debtors experience, if any, hinges on their relation to both the morality and temporality of repayment.

    Research areas

  • debt, inequality, morality, temporality, joking, value

    Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice
  • Bristol Poverty Institute



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    Embargo ends: 29/05/21

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