Spaces of interest: financial governance and debt subjectivity
This dissertation examines automobile title lending practices to interrogate debt as an embodied experience. Alternative financial services such as title lending provide a way to link socio-economic inequality to instruments of financial debt. The predominant research on inequality focuses on wage, income, and asset wealth; rarely is a direct connection made between socio-economic inequality and the object of debt. My interest lies beyond aggregate amounts of debt to also consider the ways in which different bodies have access to different forms of debt. This project examines how particular subprime instruments work to reinforce structural inequalities associated with race, class, and gender and how specific populations are increasingly coming to rely on debt to subsist. Using in-depth interviews, geospatial mapping, and descriptive statistical analysis I show the importance of recognizing debt not only as a conditional object but also as a lived condition of being. I conclude with discussions on dispossession and financial precarity to consider how the normative discourse of debt needs to change.