MSAS Seminar: The Materiality of Debt, Kinship, and the Invisible Violence of Migration in Nepal

Speaker: Ina Zharkevich (Oxford)

Chair: Laura Trajber Waisbich


While international migration in Nepal is often lauded for its significant contribution to the nation’s GDP (almost 30 per cent), the dark side of this success story is that much of the international migration from Nepal thrives on debt. International migrants from Nepal have to pay anywhere from 1,000 to 60,000 USD to the brokers-cum-smugglers, depending on the country of destination. By borrowing huge sums of money at 36-50 per cent interest rate, many of the soon-to-be migrants are trapped into the cycle of debt even before leaving for the destination country – with the time of departure often being postponed by brokers and smugglers in order to reap higher profits. Be it legal migrants to the Gulf or irregular migrants to the USA, many migrants take years to repay the debt, if at all, with much of the money remitted used for servicing the debt, with family members back home making a huge contribution not only to repaying the loans (and thus enriching the money-lenders) but also to supplying cheap labour for global capitalism. Instead of focusing on overt or physical violence of migrants’ irregular journeys, this seminar will explore invisible forms of violence experienced by migrants and their left-behind families who are trapped in debt and the ways in which debt becomes present in people's lives.

Ina Zharkevich is a social anthropologist who has worked in Nepal on issues around the Maoist civil war, social change, migration, and religious practice. She is the author of Maoist People's War and the Revolution of Everyday Life in Nepal (2019).


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