Accepted paper:

Money, money, money: debts, credits and gift exchange in coastal Kerala

Authors:

Miriam Benteler

Paper short abstract:

The paper takes a closer look at credits given among relatives and friends in the Latin Catholic community of coastal Kerala/South India. Against the background of theories on gift exchange, it argues that the giving and taking of these credits can be understood as a kind of gift exchange.

Paper long abstract:

Marriage, baptism, house building, illness or death in the family: there are many different occasions in the lives of the Latin Catholics of coastal Kerala/South India for which a large amount of money is needed. Consequently, the necessity to raise it frequently occurs and borrowing money and getting into debts is very common. Beside loans from banks, agencies, private moneylenders and social welfare organisations, a large number of loans is given among people who know each other personally: among relatives and friends, neighbours and acquaintances. In contrast to credits from private and public institutions, the non-institutionalised and non-contractual lending from private persons is referred to by the Malayalam word 'katam' (debt). Taking and giving of 'katam' among relatives and friends is an obligation: people who stand in a certain relationship to each other should not deny each other a credit. Mutuality, interdependence and the personal relationship between creditor and debtor are thus highly emphasised. The paper takes a closer look at credits given among relatives and friends, neighbours and acquaintances. Against the background of theories on gift exchange, it argues that the giving of these credits can be understood as gift exchange. Though the want of money is the driving force, the giving and taking of 'katam' depends on personal relations. It is this focus on existing relations and the desire to keep and strengthen them that makes the giving and taking of katam a kind of gift exchange.

panel P046
Give and take: gift exchange in South Asia