Debtor Caste

Debtor Caste April 12, 2012

Graeber ( Debt: The First 5,000 Years , p. 9) offers this extreme example of the tyrannical use of debt: A French anthropologist in the eastern Himalayas in the 1970s discovered that a cast known as “vanquished ones” was in a state of “permanent debt dependency. Landless and penniless, they were obliged to solicit loans from the landlords simply to find a way to eat – not for the money, since the sums were paltry, but because poor debtors were expected to pay back the interest in the form of work.”

Their greatest expenses were for weddings. To put on a wedding, they would invariably have to borrow, and because they lacked the means to repay they had to give their daughters as security: “Often, when a poor man had to borrow money for his daughter’s marriage, the security would be the bride herself. She would be expected to report to the lender’s household after her wedding night, spend a few months there as his concubine, and then, once he grew bored, be sent off to some nearby timber camp, where she would have to spend the next year or two as a prostitute working off her father’s debt. Once it was paid off, she’d return to her husband and begin her married life.”

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