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Keywords:

  • care;
  • time;
  • domestic relations;
  • consumer credit;
  • debt;
  • urban poverty;
  • economic precariousness;
  • Chile;
  • ethnography;
  • medical anthropology

ABSTRACT

In this article, I explore the synergy and disjunctures of the consumer credit system and care for the mentally ill and addicted in the lifeworlds of the urban poor in Santiago, Chile. In Chile, the expansion of the credit system has had a double-edged effect on the poor. Although it produces perpetual indebtedness, it also is a resource amid unstable labor. Following an extended family over several years, this article examines how women take up credit through a wider field of domestic relations and institutions to care for kin with mental illness and addiction within the home. Such gestures of care enact a temporality of waiting, allowing different, but unpredictable, aspects of others to emerge. Through longitudinal ethnographic research with this family, I demonstrate both how possibility is actualized within the home as symptoms of illness and forms of domestic violence, and how a wider network of dependencies—from neighbors to lending institutions—shapes the temporality of relations within the home. Such a study of care in relation to the credit economy may offer other analytic perspectives on discourses of individualism, consumerism, and cost-effectiveness accompanying the expansion of consumer credit as they are absorbed into the everyday.