Accepted paper:

'What if the worst happened?' Life insurance in London as technology of care

Authors:

Sofia Ugarte (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

How do Londoners experience the life insurance market to control uncertainties and limits of mortality and loss? This paper shows how policyholders turn into immortal figures that extend kin relations beyond death, exceeding its actuarial rationale via alternative temporalities and kin assemblages.

Paper long abstract:

Life insurance is a market device that entails a multiplicity of social and cultural phenomena of different scales. This paper aims to illustrate the way policyholders and their families experience the life insurance market living through kinship ties of care in London, in order to harness the uncertainties and limits of mortality and loss. A life insurance policy is a private contract people subscribe to, along with paying monthly premiums, to get money if the policyholder dies unexpectedly. For Londoners, taking a life insurance policy is an anticipatory action that helps families cope with the irreducible possibility of early death, controlling and sustaining caring relations across time among intimate kin. Through the transformation of the policyholder to an immortal (monetary) figure that extends relations beyond death, life insurance becomes a "technology of care" that mediates and bonds intimate kin in absence. These findings contribute to the understanding of life insurance as a significant practice that transforms Londoners' lives beyond the economic and actuarial reasoning behind it, specifically its temporal constitution and experience as well as the kinship assemblages that underpin it.

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