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 for Social Anthropology/Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg) "Valuable Defaults: Collecting Contested Debts in Post-socialist Hungary"

BALAZS GOSZTONYI, then a graduate student at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology/Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, Germany, was awarded a grant in April 2022 to aid research on ‘”Valuable Defaults: Collecting Contested Debts in Post-socialist Hungary,” supervised by Dr. Marek Mikus. Policymakers and corporate elites orchestrating the transition from socialism to capitalism believed that a liberalized banking system would facilitate Hungary’s economic catch-up with Western Europe. A lending boom in the 2000s morphed into a household debt crisis during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Extensive lending was followed by increased debt collection. Since then, the debt collection industry has grown in importance, and it was organized as a market that extracts payments from indebted households. The nature of credit and debt as a social relation has been widely recognized in economic anthropology; however, the importance of the institution of debt collection in such financialized relations has been mostly neglected, especially in the post-socialist East-Central European context. This research looks at debt collection in Hungary from the anthropology of markets perspective, drawing especially on market construction, valuation, and commodification perspectives. 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 distressed and defaulted debts are commodified and economic value is made out of financial hardship or default.