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