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Debt (re)considered: an exploration of shame, bankruptcy, and financial resilience

Pollard, Charlie Caye (2022) Debt (re)considered: an exploration of shame, bankruptcy, and financial resilience. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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In the wake of the 2008 Great Recession—a global financial crisis felt by millions of Americans—bankruptcy rates in the U.S. spiked; curiously, so too did stigma associated with bankruptcy (Sousa 2018). The brunt of literature grappling with these findings focuses on the external and structural consequences of stigma from bankruptcy. Prior work stays largely within the scope of the pre-bankruptcy/debt restructuring phase and within the bankruptcy process itself. A gap exists in the stigmatizing effects of the aftermath of bankruptcy. What are the emotional consequences of stigma and how does it impact financial resilience of debtors in the years after someone declares? Employing a framework of Marxism, neoliberal orientations of political economy, and Symbolic Interactionism, this thesis explores the nexus of consumer bankruptcy, shame, and financial resilience following the Great Recession of 2008. Using semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 7 individuals who experienced consumer bankruptcy (both chapters 7 and 13) between 2007 and 2018, I find that shame mars the entirety of debtors' bankruptcy experience: before, during, and after. There are numerous structural reminders of debtors post-bankrupt status, i.e., bankruptcy staying attached to one's credit identity for years after successfully discharging. It is through structural remnants of stigma that debtors maintain their sense of shame and thus disengaged from financially resilient behavior after they discharged. Further, and in the years after discharging and living with stigma, post-bankrupt individuals both reify the very system that stigmatized them while attempting to resist the rationale that underpins it. Two phenomena occurred: 1) interviewees reified neoliberalism by affirming the stigmatized characterization of debtors and bankrupt individuals, and 2) interviewees reframed their own experiences thereby resisting the neoliberal system.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Bankruptcy; Debt; Financial Resilience; Great Recession; Political Economy; Shame; Stigmatization;
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Social and Behavioral Science > Sociology and Social Work
Date Deposited: 26 May 2023 17:16
Last Modified: 26 May 2023 17:16
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5918

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