An Economic Anthropology Blog
Saraswathi obtains wealth by making herself a lender and acquiring money from NGOs. She is a part of a lower caste, making less than the equivalent of $1000 USD per year, but lends to family and women in the community. She does this in some situations to compensate for the fact that her in-laws do not like her, that she must "always prove herself" to them. As a Rosca, she maintains relationships with upper caste women from whom she borrows frequently in exchange for her labor. She is able to repay debts and circulate finances by pledging her own and her family's jewels and labor to members of the upper caste. Carola inherited cattle and land that she now runs by herself since her husband died. Her father and husband were both authority figures, but she seems to have disassociated herself from the state by being altruistic towards her community. She frequently donates to charity, but also socializes with authority partially to acquire funds to give to those in need. She is loved by the community as a humble and giving woman. Both Carola and Saraswathi use borrowing, lending, and donation as a way to establish social respect and maintain financial connections. They act in their own self-interests as women, who typically lack financial respect and power in their culture, and are thus able to garner respect and trust for their families and estates. This allows them social power they would not otherwise have in India and Mexico. In India, gender limits who Saraswathi forms financial relationships with (she typically lends and borrows from women). But in Mexico, Carola is trusted by both male and female authority, and although she keeps the fact that she (and not her sons) owns her estate under wraps, it is easier for her to own land as a Mexican woman than it is for Saraswathi as an Indian woman.
Saraswathi runs her finances through a complex juggling of loans- both those that she owes and those that she is owed. She pulls money from multiple sources, such as her husband's job, banks, family/community members, and NGOs, using one source to pay another. She often uses jewelry as a form of collateral or currency. By maintaining good relations with her creditors and aiding other women with loans, she accrues social power and esteem.Carola inherited land and cattle from her late husband and keeps control of her assets by playing the role of a respectable widow. Though her sons purportedly own everything, Carola participates in Ejido, pushes ventures like the casino, and otherwise manages the estate. She, like Saraswathi, wields social power borne from charity.Both women gain good reputations through lending, charity, and good credit. They then cyclically use their reputations to bolster their economic power. Their influence reflects on their family and estate. Saraswathi faces more limitations because of her gender and caste (she mostly deals with women and only lends to those in her caste). Carola, on the other hand, has standing with both men and women, even though she pretends to have little power over her finances. She also has more physical assets, like cattle and land, compared to Saraswathi, who makes her money predominantly through lending.
Saraswathi mobilizes wealth through a system of lending and a series of social ties within her community. While Saraswathi is a prominent figure within her castes community, she relies deeply on her families combined resources. Saraswathi defies even greater patriarchal norms in her home country of India by managing her families income/wealth. Furthermore, she utilizes chit funds, NGO's, and even members of higher castes. While Saraswathi is a member of India's lowest caste, she and her families wealth are incredibly valuable within her community. Saraswathi primarily lends to women within her community who would otherwise be unable to obtain money due to India's patriarchal society, specifically their own husbands. While her social power might not be valued as much in higher castes, she still maintains herself as a prominent figure in her community.Corola inherited her wealth and her land through the passing of her husband. While the land technically belongs to her sons, she manages and controls most of the land/wealth while they pursue other ventures. Despite her late husband creating a poor reputation for himself with members of the community, Corola has re-branded she and her families reputation by being charitable, active in local politics, and maintaining a willingness to help others. Similarly, Carola's wealth valued very highly within her specific community. Without her, the local village would surely suffer. furthermore, like Saraswathi, her well standing social status and actions contributes to her wealth/value.Saraswathi and Carola both share similar forms of value formation. While Carola's husband is no longer alive, the start of her success can still be attributed to him. Carola also depends on her sons assistance in maintaining her social status and wealth through helping maintain the cattle, the land, and small payments from her son that resides in the US. Similarly, Saraswathi relies on her husband and son's wages to maintain her juggling of lending. It's important to emphasize that neither of these women would be where they are without not only their family, but their individual, virtuous actions in their respective communities, as well. I question whether or not Saraswathi and Carola would have to work half as hard as they do if they had been born male, or even just within the United States. Both come from communities in which they're challenged because of their sex, but still continue to progress their wealth and social status. What could these two women due if given the same resources available to us in the United States? What are some social and financial challenges we ourselves face within our own communities that may be different or similar to Saraswathi and Carola's?
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