Unpayable Debt: gender, and sex in financialized India

by ISABELLE GUÉRIN and SANTOSH KUMAR

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In recent decades rural South India has witnessed the profound effects of financialization, effects that include growing sexual puritanism, changing kinship patterns, and the redefinition of caste hierarchies. For Dalit women, these transformations have given rise to new forms of debt, sexuality, and sexual‐economic exchanges. Although such exchanges can be compatible with sexual desire and pleasure, Dalit women are nonetheless trapped in new forms of unpayable debt. Their debts, though quantifiable and financial, retain a strong moral component associated with new norms of chastity and monogamy. Far from being mere passive objects of exchange, Dalit women challenge their unpayable debt and struggle to exist both as creditworthy financial subjects and as subjects of desire. In contesting the norms of forced sexuality, these women challenge researchers to rethink the concepts of debt and unpayable debt through the lens of gender and sexuality