Balazs Andras Gosztonyi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Max Planck Institute

Grant number

Gr. 10303

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Gosztonyi, Balazs (Max Planck Institute) "Valuable Defaults: Collecting Contested Debts in Post-socialist Hungary"

Policymakers and corporate elites that orchestrated the transition from socialism to capitalism believed that a liberalized banking system will facilitate Hungary’s economic catch-up with Western Europe. This led to lending boom, which morphed into a household debt crisis during the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis. Peripheral predatory lending was followed by post-crisis predacious debt collection, which has been organized as a market with the goal of deploying efficiency in the name of financial discipline to competitively extract payments from debtors. Credit and debt as a social relation has been widely recognized in economic anthropology, however, debt collection as a central institution in such financialized relations has been mostly neglected, especially in the post-socialist East Central European context. This research aims to look specifically at debt collection from the anthropology of markets perspective, especially approaches emphasizing the construction of markets, as well as valuation and commodification studies. As a multi-sited study-up, down and sideways ethnography, the project seeks to understand the generative politics and the functioning of this market, with a distinctive focus on debtors, debt collectors and their specific calculative and labour practices to understand how debts are commodified and economic value is made out of financial hardship or default.