Shreya Ghimire, a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Politics, has published an article in a foremost critical political studies journal in Canada – Studies in Political Economy: A Socialist Review.
The article, titled “Canadian imperialism and the politics of microfinance,” sheds light on the political and gendered logics promoted in the Canadian development sector in the area of microfinance. “Microfinance” refers to a set of financial services offered to individuals who are typically excluded from accessing conventional banking services. Microfinance programs are often paired with microcredit, which provides small, short-term, loans to poor people, often in rural communities, and sometimes with options for insurance and savings.
Against the backdrop of scholarship that has cast serious doubt on the effectiveness of microfinance in promoting economic development or reducing poverty, Ghimire has unearthed the underlying rationales running through the promotion of microfinance by global development bodies as well as the Canadian government.
While sold as a poverty reduction strategy, microfinance financialization processes, as Ghimire shows, impose neoliberal market logics on poor women in the Global South in ways that leave the inequalities shaping their day-to-day lives largely unchanged.
Ghimire posits that microfinance operates as an imperialist project by expanding capitalist processes in Canada into communities in the Global South via the Canadian state. The primary beneficiary of such programs, in short, is the development sector within Canada itself.
The article stems in part from her master’s degree research in the Department of Politics, including a Major Research Paper supervised by Professor Karen Bridget Murray and co-supervised by Professor Isabella Bakker. However, Ghimire was already developing this work as an undergraduate student. As Ghimire says: “I became very interested in how power operates and is exercised through paradigms of development. As an undergraduate student, my interest was particularly piqued because of the fact that foreign aid and development tended to be viewed in Canada as technical rather than political, especially compared to the more explicitly political realm of foreign policy. I really wanted to do research that opened up space for critical inquiry into aid and development policy.”
Ghimire says the Department of Politics was an ideal place to pursue doctoral studies because of its many faculty and students “engaged in critical, creative, and boundary-pushing research … I was particularly drawn,” Ghimire adds, “to the strength of the Canadian political economy subfield within the Department Politics, where I think my critical engagement with Canadian development policies and programs will be supported.”