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Women and microcredit: alternative readings of subjectivity, agency, and gender change in rural Mexico

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Within the last two decades, the growth of microcredit, or the provision of small loans to poor borrowers, has become a key development initiative in the Global South. This is particularly important for questions of gender relationships, as the majority of microcredit recipients worldwide are low-income women. However, most assessments of microcredit and gender emphasize issues of individual empowerment rather than the large-scale political implications of credit provision. In this article, I critique the use of mainstream empowerment models employed in the assessment of microcredit's ability to provoke changes in gender relationships. I argue that these models often fail to describe microcredit's effects on women's lives due to their epistemological framework, which pushes aside questions of geographical and historical specificity in pursuit of a universally empowered microcredit subject. Examining a mainstream empowerment model I used to conduct research in rural Mexico, I highlight these problems and present an alternative analysis of subjectivity, agency, and gender change as a result of microcredit provision.
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Keywords: Mexico; México; agencia; agency; empoderamiento; empowerment; gender; género; microcredit; microcrédito

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography,University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,NC, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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