Project Year



South Asia



Project Description

“Financial literacy” is now a key factor in poverty alleviation and financial inclusion programs in developing countries. Most discussions of financial literacy imply that it is merely a set of skills, but previous research shows that financial literacy is in fact shaped by social and cultural factors. This research project defines financial literacy as the material practices through which all people manage their resources, including those mediating the relationships between individuals and financial institutions. This suggests that the study of financial literacies among the “unbanked” can lead to more effective strategies for their financial inclusion. Our research focuses on India, where nearly 80 percent of the population—about 836 million people—lives on a half dollar a day. We will conduct ethnography in two low-income residential areas in Orissa state, one near financial institutions in the state capital and one far from financial institutions in a rural district. Through long, unstructured interviews with residents in each site, observations of daily life, and a subsequent survey, we will track the material objects through which people manage their resources—bank books, ration cards, purses, folders, boxes, shelves, bags, mobile phones, televisions, newspapers, weights and measures—and the ways people use them.


Katharine B. Martineau, Pradeep Baisakh, Nishita Trisal

About the Researcher(s)

researcherKatherine B. Martineau is working on her PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She holds a M.A. in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, and a B.A. from the Residential College, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Researcher: Pradeep Baisakh has his MA in Journalism, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India, and a BS in First Class in Physics, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India.

Researcher: Nishita Trisal is a PhD student of Cultural Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz. She has an A.B., magna cum laude, in Media Studies, DePauw University.

Synopsis of Research Results

1. Link to their blog post: Four Reasons to Keep Your Money at Home.


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