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Oikos Workshop | Financial Planning as Self-Fashioning in the Age of Financialization

09/23 Friday | 1pm

The OIKOS Working Group and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for a presentation and discussion with sociocultural anthropologist Ainur Begim about her work on financial planning as self-fashioning. Please email chumley[at]nyu[dot]edu for a copy of the paper.

Begim’s work, based on 15 months of field research, examines the emergence of life insurance as a savings device for multi-generational households in postsocialist Kazakhstan. An oil-based economy, Kazakhstan enjoys one of the highest incomes per capita in the postsocialist region, but in the context of rampant inflation, a weakened post-crisis banking system, and uncertainty surrounding the political regime, Kazakhstanis struggle to find suitable savings and investment vehicles. Many have turned to illicit accumulative life insurance schemes, often peddled using multi-level marketing techniques, to protect and valorize liquid assets. To be insured, a policyholder makes annual premium payments and at the end of the policy term, typically in 10-15 years, he or she expects to receive both the premium payments and accumulated interest. Financial advisers, who sell these accumulative life insurance schemes, primarily market them as savings rather than insurance devices, appealing to both the idealized western standards of living with dignity and traditional Kazakh values of respecting elders and supporting close kin, in turn shaping new visions of what the Kazakh middle-class family and household ought to be. In her work, Begim argues that financial advisers who peddle these schemes are in the business of creating new forms of personhood as well as new ways of conceiving, planning for, and living a good life in the state of pervasive economic and political uncertainty.

Ainur Begim is a sociocultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in economic and political anthropology, natural resources, finance, entrepreneurship, gender, Soviet and post-Soviet Eurasia. Her dissertation research, supported by the National Science Foundation, concerns financial markets, oil politics, and the state in Central Asia. She is currently developing a book manuscript based on her dissertation. Begim received her B.A. from Bates College, an M.Phil. and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Yale University.

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