The Financialisation of Remittances

© Rahel Kunz

Projet FNS 2017-2020
Dr. Rahel Kunz

Over the last two decades, governments, international organisations, NGOs, civil society and private actors have become interested in remittances as a key source for funding development and have started to create institutions, policies and projects to harness their potential. More recently, remittances have become integrated in the global financial inclusion agenda, which promotes access to financial education and services for low-income populations as a strategy for poverty reduction, development and women’s empowerment. Various international organisations and initiatives encourage migrant workers to transfer their money via more ‘formal’ channels using financial services such as mobile banking and to invest remittances in productive ways. This ‘financialisation of remittances’ links remittances to financial literacy and financial services and innovation initiatives to increase the efficient use of remittances.

Most studies analysing the ‘financialisation of remittances’ focus at the macro-level and describe it either as a panacea for development or as a new site of capitalist exploitation and neoliberalisation. There is a lack of critical in-depth studies that analyse the concrete institutional, material and discursive elements of this phenomenon in the global South. Through three case studies from Kenya, Mexico and Nepal, this project scrutinises the socio-cultural manifestations of this phenomenon in specific contexts. We ask:

  • What are the conditions of possibility and defining characteristics of the ‘financialisation of remittances’ phenomenon?
  • How do sociocultural dynamics shape the ways in which the ‘financialisation of remittances’ translates and plays out in particular contexts?

This project combines Foucauldian, feminist and everyday cultural political economy perspectives to develop a reconceptualisation of the financialisation of remittances. It uses an innovative multi-method, multi-site approach to address the research questions. Financial inclusion and the link to remittances is currently a hot topic in the international development community, illustrated by recent activities of the G20 and the World Bank. Beyond its scientific objectives, the project aims to provide a basis for reflection and policy recommendations regarding potential successes and failures of the linking of remittances to social inclusion and financialisation initiatives more generally.

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