Labour, Finance and Social Dynamics
Funding Agency(ies):
Principal Investigator(s):
Dr. Isabelle Guérin
Start Date : 
Contact Email :

Axis 3. of the Social Sciences Department /


Since 2003, this research programme has been working on labour, finance and social dynamics in rural southern India, starting from financiarisation. Southern economies, including rural southern India, are increasingly monetarized but also increasingly financiarised. Households have growing needs for financial services, whether to protect from the uncertainties of daily life, to fund life cycle events, to acquire consumer goods, including statutory goods, or to invest in income generative activities. Unlike what is often thought, the poor are not financially excluded: they are highly financiarised but in particular, barely formal ways. These are the combined outcome of local practices and a wide range of development projects and policies, such as microfinance, financial inclusion policies and other initiatives targeting the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Financiarisation at the margins can bring about new forms of exploitation and inequality. But it can also lead to innovative forms of solidarity.

Financiarisation offers a way in to understanding various broader socioeconomic and political forces, such as the evolution of public action and development policies, blurred distinctions with market forces, shifts in labour relationships and social protection regimes, and the emergence of consumeris, including among the poor. 

Our analysis is based on two distinct but complementary theoretical frameworks. Firstly, a political economic framework based on the structural dialectics producing political and economic differentiation within and between societies. Secondly, a moral economic framework based on individual and collective moralities and the cultural values that pervade economic social relations.

The program has explored various topics over the past decade:

- the complexity and diversity of financial and monetary practices in various communities, in terms of juggling and calculation frameworks;

- the social regulation of money, finance and debt in relation to various institutions such as class, caste, gender, ethnicity, religion, space and its cultural variation;

- the emergence of household over-indebtedness, as influenced by rising consumption, income stagnation and absent social protection;

- the ambiguity of microfinance and financial inclusion programs;

- the renewal of bondage relationships;

Three projects are currently in progress:

1/ Human Bondage in the Indian Ocean World: Roots, Structure and Transformations (IOW). This project explores the relationship between historical and contemporary forms of servitude and human trafficking in the IOW within the context of socio-economic, institutional and specific environment interaction. The IFP team is in charge of the contemporary analysis of bonded labour in south India, with a focus on three sectors which have been investigated since 2003: brick kilns, sugar cane harvesting and rice processing.  Funding: ANR. (Project leader: Alessandro Stanziani ( and Gwynn Campbell (

2/ Silk Societies, Gold Stories: Using Gold-Based Life Stories to Study Gender, Financial Inclusion, and Work Vulnerability in South Indian Sericulture. This project involved gathering oral histories of stakeholders across the Karnataka silk industry - in terms of the acquisition, ownership, and divestment of gold jewelry - as a way of listening to financial histories towards understanding the relationship between liberalisation-related policies and work vulnerability in the sector. Gold was chosen because it is both an important store of value in India, and a material that is valued in multiple, interconnected, ways. The complex connections between gold and stakeholders’s lives offered ways to locate respondents, that were deeply embedded in the contexts of their lives, their social institutional affiliations, work histories, and debt relations.  The project analysis compares stories around gold ownership between and within the different sub-sectors – which involve different communities across urban and rural sites – to understand how factors such religion, caste, gender, resource-sharing within families, class hierarchies, access to the local state, and proximity to urban centers, relate to vulnerability. Funding: IMFTI. (Project leader: Nithya Joseph)

3/ Microfinance in crisis. Microcredit programmes, long considered as efficient development tools, now face unprecedented crises in various parts of the world. This projects aims to offer a global analysis of the main microcredit delinquency factors (such as governance, regulation, market saturation and political influence), from the perspective of supply, demand and environment. The research will look into the exact nature and interaction among identified recurrent factors in different economic, growth and market maturity context, with the view of building a typology of delinquency crises. It draws on comparative analysis (south India, Morocco, Senegal and Dominican Republic). Funding: EIBURS. (Project leader: Isabelle Guérin)

Materials and Methods:

Its interdisciplinary nature is specific to this programme, with researchers in economy, anthropology, agronomy, sociology, political science as well as geography. A large part of the work is focused on South India with, nevertheless, a comparative perspective between various countries (Mexico, Madagascar, Morroco, Senegal, Dominican Republic), the main objective being, not to compare "objects" or "situations" but rather processes and mechanisms.

Completed projects:
Main outputs:

Selective list of publications:


    - Guérin I. (2014) La microfinance et ses dérives. Emanciper, discipliner ou exploiter ? Paris : Demopolis.

    - Guérin I. Morvant-Roux S. Villarreal M. (eds) (2013) Microfinance, debt and Over-indebtedness. Juggling with money, London: Routledge.

    - Breman J. Guérin I. Prakash A. (eds) (2009) India's unfree workorce. Old and new practices of labour bondage, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

    - Servet J.-M. (2006) Banquiers aux pieds nus, Paris: Odile Jacob.

Journal special issues:

    - Lerche J. Guérin I. Srivastava R. (eds) (2002) Labour Regulations and Labour Standards in India, Special issue of Global Labour Journal.

    - Fouillet C., Harriss-White B., Hudon, M. and Copestake J. (2013), The Field of Microfinance and Development: Showcasing India, Special Issue of Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 41, Supplement Issue 1, 132 p.

Journal Articles:

- Augsbourg B., Fouillet C. (2010) Profit Empowerment: The Microfinance Institution’s Mission Drift, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, vol. IX, nos 3-4, (no spécial  Microfinance and Institutions), p. 327-355.

- Fouillet C., Harriss-White B., Hudon, M. and Copestake J.  (2013), Microfinance Studies: Introduction and Overview, Oxford Development Studies, 41(1): S1-S16.- Fouillet C. et Pairault Th. (2010), Microfinance : une “discipline” diversement accueillie en Chine et en Inde, Economie et Institutions, Vol. 8, N° 1, pp. 123-146.

- Fouillet C. (2007), Les risques climatiques : quel rôle pour la microassurance ?, Autrepart, Vol. 44, pp. 203-216.

- Guérin I. (2014) Juggling with debt, social ties and values, Cultural Anthropology, vol. LV, no 9, 2014, p. S40-S50.

- Guérin I. D’Espallier B. Venkatasubramanian G. (2013) Debt in Rural South India: Fragmentation, Social Regulation and Discrimination, Journal of Development Studies, 49(9): 1155-1171.

- Guérin I. (2013) Bonded Labour, Agrarian change and Capitalism: Emerging Patterns in South-India, Journal of Agrarian Change, 13(3): 105-423.

- Jauzelon C., (2007) Microfinance et pratiques sociales des femmes paraiyars en Inde du sud : solidarité « organisée » ou solidarité « héritée » ?, Revue Tiers Monde 2/ 2007 (n° 190) : 275-289.

- Picherit D. (2012) Migrant Labourers’ Struggles Between Village and Urban Migration Sites: Labour Standards, Rural Development and Politics in South India, Global Labour Journal: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, p. 143-162.


Staff ( IFP & External )