Debt Relations in Georgian Bazaars

A Creditors’ Perspective on Risky Engagements


  • Susanne Fehlings Frobenius-Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology at Goethe-University Frankfurt a.M.



Caucasus, Informality, Microfinance, Georgia, Bazaar, Debts, Loans


This article is about practices of borrowing and lending money in the context of Georgian bazaar trade. While many anthropological studies focus on debtors or individual moneylenders, this article starts from the perspective of microcredit experts, who grant loans to traders on behalf of their companies and thereby engage in complex relationships. Borrowing money from a microcredit institution consists of an administrative act, which is sealed by formal procedures such as signing a contract, but the bazaar is a sphere that is, at least partially, structured by informal practices and personal relationships. To make a profit, microcredit experts must play a risky and sometimes existential game. They must decide whether to trust or not to trust a client. In order to assess and minimize risk, they immerse themselves into the world of their clients and rely on social values and moralities. This article describes their strategies and thus gives insights into the nature of debts, obligations, relationships, institutional frameworks, and informal practices in the context of microfinance in the Georgian bazaar trade sector.



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