Ellen Garnett Kladky
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Irvine, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9824
Approve DateApril 30, 2019
Project TitleKladky, Ellen (California, Irvine, U. of) "Pedagogies of Love: Family, Finance, and Social Intervention Programs in Deindustrialized Appalachia"
ELLEN KLADKY, then a graduate student at University of California, Irvine, California, was awarded a grant in April 2019 to aid research on “Pedagogies of Love: Family, Finance, and Social Intervention Programs in Deindustrialized Appalachia,” supervised by Dr. Bill Maurer. This dissertation examines the Christian debt refusal movement in Appalachia to analyze the way that deindustrialization, consumer debt, and evolving discourse around race and privilege have reconfigured the parameters of financial inclusion and economic inequality. Across the US, household debt is at an all-time high. But a massively popular Christian debt refusal movement is prompting mostly white participants to opt out of a key form of racial-economic privilege: favorable access to consumer credit. To do so, they commit financial iconoclasm, cutting up their credit cards and declaring their freedom from FICO scores, all in the name of preserving the nuclear family unit. The grantee argues that evangelical financial programs turn the premise of financial inclusion on its head, recognizing the increasingly predatory nature of debt for many consumers, especially in light of neoliberal demands for household austerity and a half-century of economic disinvestment in deindustrialized communities. These programs, it is contended, attempt to discursively entrench the idea of an even economic playing field while teaching participants to shore up the economic dividends of whiteness outside of the consumer debt system. Ultimately, this research theorizes the relationship between white working-class identity, the consumer debt crisis, and the ongoing project of racial capitalism in order to better understand and counter systems of economic inequality. Through analysis of the affective landscape of class stagnation and mobility, it argues that the changing role of consumer debt in everyday economic life requires new ways of understanding both social class and whiteness in the United States.