Marek Mikuš, Ph. D., a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle held a lecture entitled Household Debt in Post–Credit Boom Croatia on 17th March 2017 at the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb and on 27th March 2017 at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. The lecture is a part of the project of the same name which is carried out by the Research Group Financialization at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology whose principal investigators are prof. Chris Hann, Ph. D. and Don Kalb, Ph. D. Marek Mikuš earned his doctorate at the London School of Economics in 2014 with a topic in social anthropology within which he examined the role of civil society in the context of the political and economic transition of postsocialist Serbia. Also, he is staying at the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb from December 2016 till April 2017 as a visiting scientist.
Household debt in Croatia grew rapidly in the 2000s in the setting of a “peripheral financialisation” of Croatia’s political economy. As elsewhere in postsocialist Europe, many took out loans, especially mortgages, indexed to foreign currencies. Since the economy slipped into a protracted crisis in 2008, big jumps in exchange rates, compounded by variable interest rates and alleged machinations of the banks, brought misery to many debtors and a surge in debt recovery and home repossessions. The social costs of debt became an important public issue addressed by civic associations, social movements, politicians, and legal and regulatory apparatuses. My project studies how experiences of indebtedness shape and reflect social relations, in particular class, in Zagreb credit-boom neighbourhoods, and how regulative frameworks and political practices of bankers, activists and others embed debt in contested moral economies at various scales, from the household to the nation-state to the EU. Here I discuss the relevance of the research programme of “social studies of finance”, with considerable following in anthropology, for my focus. While useful for studying technologies and practices through which credit/debt is constructed and reproduced, its flat social ontology and ahistorical, apolitical perspective do not allow for a questioning of the nature of credit/debt and its place in wider webs of social relationships and historical and spatial dynamics. I consider how concepts of class, institution and moral economy, and insights of political economists and critical geographers, may help develop a historical and global anthropological perspective on Croatian household debt boom and bust.