Entrenched and (Un)spoken: Neoliberalism and Canadian Microfinance
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This dissertation focuses on microfinance in the Canadian context. While heavily documented in regions of the global South, information on microfinance within Canada is limited. Two interconnected research objectives are pursued within this dissertation. Given the scarcity of information on the basic characteristics of the sector, an on-line survey was first administered to microfinance organizations throughout Canada (N=35). Information collected through the on-line survey includes details regarding the structure, size, scope and target borrowers of Canadian organizations. The second research objective investigated within this dissertation critically examines microfinance and its connections to the principles and theories of neoliberalism. Semi-structured interviews with three microfinance stake-holder groups (employees, volunteers and borrowers) (N=33) were conducted in an effort to obtain information relating to the reproduction of neoliberalism within microfinance organizations. In this dissertation, particular attention is paid to the outcomes associated with neoliberalism, where gendered individuals (i.e. women) are rendered invisible and therefore deemed “unworthy” of support while simultaneously, certain racialized bodies are positioned as providing economic utility to the state and as such are deemed “worthy” of support (Jenson 2009; Dobrowolsky 2009; Bauder 2008 and Duggan 2003; Abu-Laban and Gabriel 2008). Research for this dissertation indicates that the theories of “roll-back” and “roll-out” neoliberalism are manifested within Canadian microfinance organizations (Peck and Tickell 2003 and Peck 2010). Deviating from the norm within microfinance organizations in the global South, Canadian organizations focus on women as borrowers only in an extreme minority of cases. Instead, research suggests that a new focus on Canadian immigrants is emerging among Canadian microfinance programs. It is this shift in focus in conjunction with the strategic usage of neoliberalized language and conceptions of the individual which lead to the conclusion that Canadian microfinance organizations are not only entrenched within the doctrine of neoliberalism but active agents in its reproduction.