"Microfinance and the Gender of Risk: The Case of Kiva.org"
by Moodie, Megan (2013)
This article examines how the gendering of high-risk financial strategies as masculine relies on and erases feminized reproductive work in the global South. I argue that the daily fallout of risky strategies—what I call peril—is the supplement to risk and that coping with peril constitutes the primary form of reproductive work of the current era. The global success of microfinance, currently cited as the best and most effective path to poverty alleviation, can be seen through this lens as a result of its ability to translate (masculine) risk into (feminine) peril; it is precisely because microfinance funds the work of getting by in the domestic sphere (and not the entrepreneurialism of the poor) that it is embraced by global business and development planners alike. I then show how the most recent trend in microfinance lending—peer-to-peer network lending, as exemplified by the wildly popular San Francisco Bay Area–based website Kiva.org—participates in the translation of risk into peril through visual and narrative techniques that give the transaction an aura of connection and mutuality. Much as the family has been described in classical Marxist-feminist analyses of industrial capitalism, peer-to-peer lending depends on decontextualized, feelingful ties to obfuscate an ongoing and highly unequal economic relationship. Risk, in this scenario, is considered only for lenders, and the real uses and dangers of microfinance borrowing must be ignored.
KeywordsMicrofinance, Finance, Gender, Reproductive Labour, Global South, Peer-To-Peer Network
ThemesThird World Women, Women and Work, Capitalism
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