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Keywords:

  • neoliberalism;
  • governmentality;
  • microfinance;
  • risk;
  • gender;
  • feminism

Abstract:  This article analyses the gendered contradictions of microfinance's celebrated “double bottom line” of social and financial impact. The example of microfinance is used to illustrate the gendered and colonial constructions of “risk” and “responsibility” that underpin neoliberalism and its gendered paradoxes. After revisiting the discursive critique of these terms, I draw on how indigenous women participating in a microfinance institution in Bolivia describe their experience to suggest how gendered ideas of risk and responsibility are framing their negotiation of and resistance to the market. While the gendered and colonial construction of risk creates dynamics that perpetuate indigenous women's exclusion from the market, the terms of the resistance and use of the intervention also challenge feminist critiques of neoliberal governmentality developed mostly with reference to advanced modernity and welfare regimes.