Scripting development through formalization: accounting for the diffusion of village savings and loans associations in Tanzania

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Abstract

Village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) are a form of self‐organized savings association which has been successfully promoted by development agencies across the Global South. This article examines the increase in VSLAs in Tanzania through an investigation of the practices through which they are organized. Self‐organized savings associations use extreme formalization to enact the social and financial discipline which enables members to count on one another. Anthropological theories of ritual as disciplinary practice shed light on the organizational practices of savings associations and their expansion. Such associations adopt the organizational properties of ritual to generate and sustain autonomous local institutions. Ritualization has added value for systems of financial ordering as a ‘framing’ device through which the financial order of saving can be delineated. Whereas sociological theorizations of institutional diffusion perceive ritualization as empty copying, ethnographically informed anthropological analysis demonstrates the productivity of formalization where detachment from ordinary relations is a sought attribute of organization

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Early online date30 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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