Seettu in Sri Lanka: (Neo)traditional finance against neoliberalism

Source: Why is finance critical? A dialogue with a women’s community in Sri Lanka. Ishani Chandrasekara. Ephemeraweb, volume 9(4): 300-317

Abstract of recommended article:

“The burst of the bubble has given momentum to the search of escape routes from the current transnational financial system and its underlying principles. For the past century, the transnational financial system has relied heavily on currency exchange, security backed loans, stocks and shares – all operated through banks, investment agencies, insurance brokers and stock markets. This global financial architecture centred on monetary values. It strived for financial wealth and achieved it for few out of many. This study shows that the practice of finance can create a wealth of a different – a social – nature. Applying an ethnographic approach to financial practices, this study tries to uncover how the sociocultural aspects of finance practiced among the poor rural women in Sri Lanka lead to the creation of social wealth beyond financial wealth. It seeks to uncover the sociocultural aspects of finance practiced among the poor rural women in Sri Lanka. It discusses how finance is critical to such communities because it is creating wealth beyond financial measurement. Finance comes to Sinhalese women’s everyday lives through traditional saving systems – seettu, household and group saving, and it operates through friendships, kin relationships and social relations. These community organizations develop social wealth through their thrifts, based on traditional practices of saving. Since transnational finance is driven by monetary values only, it overlays structures and that ignores local cultures, social networks and community identities necessary for the creation of social wealth. As a consequence, encounters with transnational finance inspire resistance in citizens in developing nations, such as Sri Lanka. In an attempt to preserve their more traditional systems of exchange, such as seettu, communities find themselves working against finance. Therefore, in this paper, what I am interested in is to engage in a dialogue with a rural community, to learn their ways of organizing finance, and the extent to which finance becomes critical to their daily lives.”

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