Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Social Sciences - Berlin Graduate School of Social Science

Christoph Sorg

Christoph Sorg

BGSS Generation 2013




“Your are not a loan”: contentious debt politics from North Africa to the North Atlantic since the Financial Crisis



Prof. Donatella Della Porta

Prof. Dr. Klaus Eder



In my PhD, I to study what I suggest to call “contentious debt politics”, that is the contested nature of debt relations. Concretely, I'm situating a new wave of collective action against debt within the broader field of anti-austerity protests since the North Atlantic Financial Crisis and Global Recession.

In doing so, I link the increasingly dynamic sociology of debt to the field of social movement studies and thereby also build bridges between the study of social inequality and contentious politics. Along these lines, my dissertation takes insights from heterodox economics, critical political economy, economic sociology, and economic anthropology on the changing nature of debt relations to identify the field of debt politics, which contentious debt politics networks navigate in.

I decided to trace the more recent activities three transnational networks, which constitute the main actors in the field and each represent a distinct organizational repertoire: transnational advocacy, Global Justice-inspired direct action, and prefigurative-participatory debt politics. Data for this multi-sited (Marcus 1995) and “global” ethnography (Burawoy et. al. 2000; Burawoy 2009) was gathered via desk research of the relevant literature and some minor statistical data, three years of participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and framing analysis (of movement publications).

The empirical part traces the emergence of transnational debt politics movements from the Southern debt crisis to the Global Justice Movement, and argues that the recent crisis served as a critical juncture for a new wave of protest. While previous mobilization had centered on Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, this new wave pivotally featured West Asian, North African, and North Atlantic debt politics movements in close interaction with the Arab Spring and anti-austerity movements.

I analyze this new wave of protest against the background of structural transformations related to financialized capitalism, the attribution of threats and opportunities by established actors in the field, the formation of new debt politics movement organization due to the fruitful engagement of established organizations and new actors that emerged via recent anti-austerity protests, the deconstruction of hegemonic debt narratives via heterodox knowledge production, and the trajectory of new forms of collective action that engage creditors and debt governance institutions.


Recent Publications
Das Märchen von Europas Unschuld. Published online with Houssam Hamade at [The Fairy Tale of Europe's Innocence]