Call for Papers ETNOFOOR: DEBT


Call for Papers: DEBT

The obligation to engage in and repay debts constrains and enables contemporary life in far-reaching ways. Global geopolitics are in no small part shaped through lending practices by international financial institutions such as the IMF. Indebted banks and corporations are continually bailed out for the supposed good of the ‘national economy’. Yet debt also serves as a springboard for the creation of novel social arrangements and various kinds of social entrepreneurship. Debt thus plays a crucial role in shaping societies and holding them together. Both narrowly defined as the obligation to pay back borrowed money and more broadly configured as a condition of relational interdependency, debt also holds a central and durable place within anthropological thought. It stands solid as a productive prism that offers important insights into the creation and maintenance of social formations over time, the configuration of morality, and the expansion of global capital (Bear 2015; Graeber 2011; Mauss 2002; Malinowski 1984).

For the upcoming issue of Etnofoor, we invite authors to engage with questions of debt and indebtedness on different scales and in various contexts. What do competing discourses about debt reveal or conceal about the economy, states, justice, ethics, or solidarity? How does debt play a role in a wide range of practices such as trading, lending, getting by, and caring? How are debt and indebtedness defined and lived? On what grounds can debts be claimed, extended, or forgiven? How are various forms of debt charged with risks, promises and aspirations, and what social relationships might emerge or transform through debt? While debt is a generative term to think about economic aspects of social life, we also invite contributions that approach it from other angles. For example, how should we think of debt in relation to the climate crisis, the large-scale destruction of ecosystems, or agricultural production? We also invite authors to consider indebtedness in contexts such as migration trajectories, relations between the living and the dead, and politics of reparation and retribution.

For our issue on Debt we welcome papers addressing these or other questions through ethnographic fieldwork or methodological, theoretical, or practical perspectives to submit an abstract of no more than 200 words to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before October 14, 2022. We also welcome book reviews and creative contributions such as photo essays or graphic ethnographies. The deadline for authors of accepted abstracts to submit their full paper is February 1, 2023. The issue is scheduled to be published in summer 2023.




Bear, Laura

2015 Navigating Austerity. Currents of Debt along a South Asian River. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Graeber, David

2011 Debt: The First 5000 Years. New York: Melville House.


Malinowski, Bronislaw

1984 [1922] Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press.


Mauss, Marcel

2002 [1925] The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. London: Routledge.