Nearly every weekday at lunchtime, Mncedisi came home from

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1 Compassion technology: CASEY GOLOMSKI University of the Witwatersrand Life insurance and the remaking of kinship in Swaziland s age of HIV A B S T R A C T An emergent life insurance market in Swaziland is prompting some families to remake kinship as the entrustment of a generation of deceased relatives children. Coincident with high HIV/AIDS mortality and changing economic policies for the financial services sector, Swaziland saw an influx of foreign insurance companies in the early 2000s. Those companies offered incentives like burial coverage and cash stipends, and they compelled families legal adoption of children as orphans through the state, an ambiguous contrast to customary child entrustment and caregiving practices. I offer ethnographic insight on financialization in the global South and conceptualize insurance as a biopolitical, moralized compassion technology, which enveloped persons financial-legal obligations within humanitarian and global health discourses of social regeneration. [insurance, kinship, adoption, compassion, financialization, Swaziland, HIV/AIDS] Nearly every weekday at lunchtime, Mncedisi came home from primary school to greet me. He mostly shared highlights of youthful life like new tongue twisters and outcomes of playground fights. Like me, Mncedisi was a temporary visitor at the rural homestead where I was staying. His mother had sent him to live there with her sister and the sister s husband s family. Mncedisi s mother was seven months pregnant with twins and worked late-night shifts as a prison wardress. She attributed her son s failures in school to a lack of supervision and too much television, and she and her sister thought a better-supervised year in the countryside would be beneficial for him. In his move, Mncedisi was entrusted or fostered across his extended family, like many other children in societies worldwide, out of affection or kinship obligations, because of families inability to provide care, or in times of crisis. In this case, under his relatives guardianship, he would contribute to their household by herding cattle, gardening, and doing domestic chores, and, in return, he would be raised, loved, and educated. Sometimes he shared more solemn daydreams of his late father. I was too small to know him, but I know he isn t here, he once said. He was not shy to admit he had no father in a biological sense, which was common among his peers. Mncedisi and nearly 120,000 others like him in Swaziland are classified by humanitarian definitions as orphaned and vulnerable children, OVC. By definition, these children have lost at least one biological parent (UNICEF 2012) 1 and are at increased risk for physical abuse, poorer health, and food and economic insecurities (President s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief 2012). Swaziland s massive OVC population derives from a pernicious HIV epidemic: The nation harbors high incidence rates and the world s highest prevalence (Bicego et al. 2013). Demographic shift associated with age patterns of HIV mortality, compounded by underdeveloped social services, has led policy experts to warn that an inadequate socialisation of a large group of orphans may result in the creation of a dysfunctional generation of Swazi citizens (Whiteside and Whalley 2007:v). AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST, Vol. 42, No. 1, pp , ISSN , online ISSN C 2015 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. DOI: /amet.12117

2 American Ethnologist Volume 42 Number 1 February 2015 Mncedisi and his family were not seropositive, but his identification as part of an OVC generation and his entrustment to his matrilaterals reflect the remaking of social life in a historical moment of vulnerability and economic change, 2 which becomes clear when focusing ethnographic attention on diverse forms of technological intervention and their effects that accompany the HIV epidemic. In this article, I describe how forms of relatedness were remade in financial technologies meant to mitigate this situated vulnerability. Specifically, I demonstrate how a new life insurance market with moralized objectives to produce financial well-being became a nexus for some families to reimagine kinship as the entrustment of a generation of deceased relatives children. Aside from providing cash stipends and basic funeral coverage, life insurance enabled families to reimagine how they might, in one repurposed local idiom, put a (orphaned) child in the belly of a relative by making the child a beneficiary of a legal-financial guardian. The use of this idiom reflects a revaluation, as it has historically referred to surrogacy expectations for the reproduction of patrilines, usually in cases of infertility. I first situate the insurance market as emerging from recent changes in national development and economic policies for the financial-services sector in the context of HIV/AIDS. I then describe interactions between the market s companies, brokers, and consumers, bringing readers to the point of sale, where the objectives and meanings of life insurance were renegotiated in a language of relatedness, both in everyday speech and in company advertisements. Here, idioms like generation and put a child in the belly were used to understand shifting kinship relations and the rise of an OVC population, signaling a discursive framing of the epidemic as a crisis of social reproduction. As it has elsewhere in Africa, HIV/AIDS has prompted the remaking of kinship, caregiving, personhood, and subjectivity (Block 2012; Klaits 2010; Niehaus 2007). While anthropologists have shown how these changes are rendered through humanitarian aid and global health (Brada 2013; Dahl 2009; Root and Whiteside 2013), less attention has been paid to the epidemic s respondents that traffic in financial services, construction, and other infrastructural technologies that systemically enable medical practice. These technologies concretely link individuals into networks of biomedicine through identification and registration, training and education, and informationcommunication and financial technologies, an effective Foucauldian biopolitical conscription in which groups constituted as named populations and sub-populations like seropositive persons, recipients of state aid and social services, and orphans come to be defined as entities for management by the state (Lock and Nguyen 2010:24). For both method and theory in the anthropology of HIV/AIDS, holistic description of social change must also account for technologies like insurance that shape regimes of biopolitics, governmentality, and sovereignty (Biehl 2007; Decoteau 2013; Nguyen 2010) as well as those technologies emergence and revaluation in light of longer political and economic histories. Social theorists have understood insurance to play a role in the formation of risk society (Beck 1992; Giddens 2000), biopolitics (Foucault 2008; Lobo-Guerrero 2011), and sexuality and gender (Morris 2010; Patel 2006, 2007). Substantive ethnographies and histories of insurance have looked at actors and markets in Northern postindustrial societies (Ericson et al. 2003; Ralph 2012; Van Hoyweghen et al. 2006; Zelizer 1979) and ideas that inform marketing and consumption (Ericson and Doyle 2006; Hersleman 2008; Lehtonen and Liukko 2010). This article follows recent ethnographies of emerging insurance markets in the global South in high-density urban areas like Cape Town and Chinese cities (Bähre 2011, 2012; Chan 2009, 2012). As an empirical contribution, this article derives from research in periurban and rural areas rather than in urban areas, 3 where financial services are marketed more aggressively and the market is more saturated. Movement between urban and rural spaces is especially fluid in Swaziland, however, given that the small country of roughly one million people takes about four hours to traverse by car and that every Swazi likely has concrete connections to rural areas. The case is useful to show how ideas and commodities of emerging markets move more easily across particular geographies, thus blurring what could be misconstrued as distinctive urban and rural worlds with presumed class differences. As a theoretical contribution, this article shows how classic anthropological questions of social relatedness and culture are constitutive of the anthropology of finance and financialization, by focusing primarily on how kinship and its affects are both motivational aspects of and means to restructure consumption of financial products. 4 Similarly, Annelise Riles (2013) interrogates the notion of culture as it is employed by Japanese financiers in their collaborative relations with international researchers, mainly as a way to deconstruct the notion s problematic epistemological assumptions and vacuity, whereas Sohini Kar (2013) points to the affective idioms used by microlenders to forge relations with recipients as a process of financialization in India. Erik Bähre (2012) shows how, in Cape Town s vulnerable townships, insurance was useful as a resource of cash redistribution among social relations but was also experienced as ambiguous, bureaucratic, and a source of violent dispute among kin and neighbors. This ambiguity of potential promise and pitfall leads Bähre to invoke a Western cultural caricature and liken insurance to the Roman god Janus, who looks backward and forward with two faces. As this work makes clear, financial technologies and knowledge about them are born out of social relations and cultural assumptions about those relations. A productive 82

3 Compassion technology American Ethnologist line of inquiry, then, is to consider how those relations in this case, kinship and its particular forms of obligation and dependency construe knowledge about financial technologies functions and purposes and about how those relations are potentially transformed through such technologies. Even in consumer-culture studies, an approach to consumption as produced through and producing social relations is inchoate, as studies have previously focused principally on taste and style (Warde 2014). In this article, I show not only how insurance puts stress on the kinship relations of potential consumers but also how it could potentially transform those relations through consumptive practice and revaluations of cultural ideals. In anthropological studies of kinship and social relations, insurance has been used as a metaphor to describe informal support networks of family systems that enable child caregiving and custody or ameliorate cultural devaluations of infertility (Godoy 2001; Jarvenpa 2004; Leinaweaver 2008:79; Lock and Nguyen 2010:262). Children have long been fostered or entrusted across households for affection, surrogacy, and labor or because of the inability to support them (Goody 1982; Leinaweaver 2008; Shipton 2007). 5 In the context of HIV/AIDS in Africa, fostered children who are relabeled orphans become powerful figures compelling humanitarian intervention on a global scale, a process involving discourses that erase longer histories of childhood and child-care practices (Brada 2013; Dahl 2009; Fassin 2012). Didier Fassin argues that rather than just the moral economy of orphans, we need to focus on the political economy and identify how anticipated financial resources like those doled out by states and NGOs and technologies like insurance inspired vocations for looking after orphans (2012:176, 178). As I show, the majority of Swazis with whom I worked, most notably in the context of insurance consumption, perceived the interplay of private life insurance and the state to be more about children s familial inclusion in policies to mitigate their vulnerability and less about their total social abandonment (cf. Biehl 2007; Leinaweaver 2008). However, while African children have long been and continue to be entrusted across households, life insurance policies compelled or forced some families to formally adopt deceased relatives children through state-recognized channels, thus turning the children into OVCs and, potentially, into dependent beneficiaries of policyholders. If Fassin (2012:175) sees humanitarian constructions of orphanhood as derived from statistics and compassion, we might theorize insurance and the Swazi ideation of children s inclusion as forms of what I call compassion technology. As a technology, insurance operates as a form of statistical, scientific knowledge that circulates capital in processes of loss, in that property, goods, and human lives are assigned monetary value according to market worth and the likelihood of their loss in expenditure, destruction, or death. In the event of actual loss, insurance policies work to pay back what consumers have spent in premiums to guarantee that value. For life insurance, death is objectively characterized as loss, but the valuation of human lives and what a life is worth is construed through a different register of commensurability than objects in the financial sphere. These two forms of value do not easily interpenetrate each other (Lambek 2013). Death presents practical and existential threats to well-being and lays a ground for both local and global responses to ameliorate the presumed forms of suffering that accompany it. The presumption and reality of suffering for children and families amid HIV is what pushes the notion of compassion to the analytic fore, but responses to suffering and death in Africa have long evoked articulations of pathos that are multiply historical, cultural, and technological (Lee and Vaughan 2008:335ff.), and contemporary formations of pathos have inspired humanitarian aid, global health initiatives, and interventions by public-private partnerships in sites of underdevelopment, HIV mortality, and high risk populations in the global South (Biehl 2007; Fassin 2012). These initiatives operate according to particular models and epistemologies scientific, actuarial, and financial and have implications for how kinship, age, and life course are realized locally (Ellison 2009; Worthman 2011). In the case of Swaziland, insurance was presented by businesses to potential consumers as a productive, economized means to mitigate the present suffering of orphaned children and future suffering from death and associated losses. It worked through a compassion-laden discourse about disconcerting changes to kinship in an age of HIV/AIDS, which invoked idioms of reproduction and generation that, coincidentally, circulated in global health and humanitarian discourses in Swaziland and regionally (Golomski 2013; Reis 2008). Because insurance is a technology that ties together the value of human life with market notions of value, its ethnography aids anthropologies of finance, HIV/AIDS, and other domains by theorizing how affective social relations in this case, kinship can materialize in financial or political form or otherwise provide the material grounds by which people perceive changes to historically given social relations. Demonopolization in an African kingdom Swaziland is a former British colonial protectorate and the last absolute monarchy in Africa. It is often seen as a bastion of African alterity (cf. Cook and Hardin 2013:247) or as a total African theme-park (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009:156 n. 25) because of parastatals intensive branding of the kingship s institutions and aesthetics. Swaziland is a lower- to middle-income country yoked economically as a peripheral state to South Africa and is dependent on the 83

4 American Ethnologist Volume 42 Number 1 February 2015 Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which de facto subsidizes its government budget out of South Africa s financial reserves. It has long been a site of colonial and postcolonial underdevelopment (Crush 1987; Levin 1997) into the era of recent neoliberal policies compelled by the IMF and World Bank (Hickel 2012), and has registered a long history of cross-cutting transformations of kinship and value between domestic and regional economies (Russell 1984; 1993; Simelane 1998). The Dlamini aristocracy under King Sobhuza II consolidated political-economic power up to and through independence in 1968 and monopolized the growing agroindustrial and financial markets through the creation of a royalist-held national investment fund, Tibiyo TakaNgwane, and other entities like the Swaziland Royal Insurance Corporation (SRIC), initiated in SRIC was the only official insurance-selling entity operating in the kingdom until the mid-2000s. I was also told of cases of some consumers being preyed on by slick South African insurance brokers who came to Swaziland to sell policies and then jumped the border with policyholders payments. Industry personnel otherwise reported the previous market to be a stagnant monopoly. Before with SRIC, you would just take it or leave it, explained a brokerage house manager, noting that there were no other life insurance options available to consumers. When I interviewed a former insurance executive at his verdant poolside veranda, he asked me rhetorically, Why would we [as executives] and the [SRIC] shareholders want it otherwise? Demonopolization of the insurance market and the financial-services sector came as part of the multisectoral National Development Strategy (NDS). The NDS was finalized in 1999, the same year Swaziland s King Mswati III officially acknowledged HIV/AIDS as a national disaster. 6 Based on a free-market enterprise policy, the NDS called for the expansion of foreign investment and commerce in the financial-services sector for the purpose of local economic empowerment (NDS 1999), but it continued a history of foreign- or white-owned capital collusively linked to the Swazi state that has not benefited the majority of Swazi (Crush 1987; Forrester and Laterza 2014; Levin 1997). In 2005, following new legislation permitting market expansion and the establishment of a parastatal regulator, SRIC quickly lost its monopoly in an influx of South African insurance companies, including Metropolitan, Old Mutual, and B3. By 2013, Swaziland had nine life insurance companies, 36 brokerage houses, and over 250 agents that included both unaffiliated individual brokers and entities like funeral parlors. In 2013, premium revenue for companies alone was more than SZL 365 million (US$33 million) (Financial Regulatory Services Authority 2013), and market researchers found that citizens have relatively good knowledge of insurance overall (Corporate Research Consultancy 2011). I next describe how that knowledge and interpretations of insurance were generated in the context of consumption and by invoking idioms of compassion. Into the market: Consumption and compassion One of my key interlocutors in the insurance industry was a broker named Lucky. After a serendipitous encounter with him following a sales pitch he made near the University of Swaziland, I soon went to do research at his brother s brokerage house in Manzini. I attended sales personnel meetings and followed brokers on the road in and beyond the town as they made product presentations to prospective consumers. Insurance companies contracted brokerage houses to sell their policies, and brokers cold-called workplace management to solicit time and space to make presentations to workers. The brokers I shadowed visited a range of places to make presentations, including construction sites, a juvenile detention center, primary and secondary schools, and a military barracks. They encouraged consumption by shoring up compassion as it was ideally rendered among kin and families and supposedly enabled by insurance. Following the local vernacular and other scholarship, I characterize the workers and their managers at these sites as well as brokers as ordinary Swazi, meaning they are mostly of middle- and, more often, lower-class socioeconomic status and are not part of the royal extended family, which largely constitutes a minority upper class. They did not have any remarkable degree of symbolic rank and had a limited yet relatively steady influx of money from remittances, savings and credit clubs, and other informal sources. Some of the workers, like those at construction sites, were on contract and, for them, employment was more piecemeal or seasonal. Insurance subscription usually entails a strict regimen of monthly premium payments, and thus one s consistent ability to pay is paramount, even if some policies offered premium holidays whereby a policyholder could miss paying up to three months without penalty. In all likelihood, this option was beyond the means of most people given their meager salaries. Indeed, as I observed in these presentations, brokers were only moderately successful in selling new policies, signing up two or three on average from a total of 30 people. Also, it is very possible that audience members were already committed to church- or workplace-based burial cooperatives, historically situated organizations that in some ways function similarly to insurance. 7 Still, while I do not assume a countrywide saturation of insurance and its arguable effects on social life, I note, on the basis of a randomized cluster-sample survey of 94 non-elite households I conducted across five neighborhoods two rural, three urban or periurban that more households reported subscribing to insurance than to burial cooperatives. 8 84

5 Compassion technology American Ethnologist Figure 1. Insurance advertisement for a company at its central office, featuring a woman helping a child pump water. Mbabane, Swaziland. September 11, Photo by Casey Golomski. I conducted participant-observation at 13 presentations, ranging from intimate break-room settings of 15 audience members to convention halls or school gymnasiums holding more than 200. Workplace managers permitted presentations before work or during tea and lunch hours, while large presentations were arranged on the weekends in tandem with workplace or union general assembly meetings. Brokers often decorated the presentation space with banners featuring brand logos. In smaller presentations, they distributed pens or pads of paper with companies insignia to encourage audience members to take notes and ask questions. Brokers also passed out plenty of glossy colored brochures stating companies missions and basic overviews of their plans. Brochures featured photos of nuclear families husband, wife, and child embracing and enumerated concerns for cooperation and investment as intergenerational imperatives. These themes were also seen in companies large-scale advertisements in highway-side billboards and in public shopping spaces (see Figure 1). One to three brokers ran the presentations, opening with a prayer or invocation to God, a thanksgiving to workplace management, and respect-laden greetings to the audience. They introduced themselves by their surnames and as caring people who faced problems similar to those audience members confronted in providing for their families. During the presentation, brokers noted how solutions to family problems could be found with the company whose products they sold, thereby introducing the company s mission in a positive light. Brokers mostly spoke about insurance, or umshwalense in siswati, but heavily peppered presentations with English cognates for industry-specific terms, like plan and risk. Companies arranged plans on a gradient of symbolic value, often using terms of mineral wealth; plans offering 85

6 American Ethnologist Volume 42 Number 1 February 2015 the most coverage were classified as platinum- or gold-level plans. Plans were otherwise named using siswati terms denoting cleverness, reciprocity, and strength. Brokers were very knowledgeable, studying each company s specific cost-of-coverage formulas so as to impressively calculate example premium payments for the audience. In most presentations, someone would usually ask, How much will this cost me? and brokers confidently displayed arithmetic skills by using the person s birthday to determine the premium. Companies constructed policies on conventional risk-based financing models: Older individuals had higher premiums as higher-risk individuals who were more likely to die sooner, at a financial loss to the insurance company and its underwriter. 9 Burial assurance options have now become more widely available in Swaziland, given the already existing burial cooperatives and the recent and quick influx of new companies. Given this influx and its concomitant growth of brokers, many workplace schedules increasingly get booked up with brokers presentations (see also Bähre 2012). Some audience members asked brokers to compare policies for them or mentioned that they had heard presentations for other companies policies. Brokers often responded to audience questions about the diversity of and difference between companies policies through a language of compassion. At one presentation, a construction worker noted how his firm previously subscribed to Company D s plan, 10 which was subsequently dropped by management because of some problems, and the worker asked the broker what difference the new, prospective policy from Company L would entail. My brother, replied the broker, we say that a person should take up a policy according to their heart. With this initial moralizing frame, the broker then contrasted his policies with the construction firm s previous policies, honing in on the particular cash benefits associated with the latter as a means of ensuring future care-giving needs. Should you die before your children, he concluded, Company D covers your burial only and the kids are left out poor, but Company L takes care of them even if you die before them. He then cited a lump sum payout to the policyholder s beneficiaries that would supposedly leave them enriched and supported. The heart is a metaphor and site of embodied morality through which care and love are reciprocally distributed between persons (Golomski 2013; Kuper 1970). Its invocation in this financialized space echoes regional, compassion-laden discourses of the heart found in religious and clinical spaces amid HIV and in development (Root and van Wyngaard 2011; Scherz 2014; Wendland 2010). Companies offered individual and group plans. Individual policies covered the main policyholder. Group policies provided basic coverage for the policyholder and members of a nuclear family unit and were called family plans or by terms denoting collectivity or relatedness. Policy applications were drawn up for applicants to list one to several spouses in one form, applicants could list tribal spouses thus acknowledging historical and enduring forms of polygynous or customary marriage (Kuper 1950). An applicant could also list from one to eight children, who would be covered up to 26 years of age. Along with biological children of the policyholder, a few family plans included coverage for up to four adult dependents. This was not the standard, and, most often, adults like parents and parents-in-law were included as additional add-ons as policy dependents. Again, because of their age and situation beyond the nuclear family unit, these persons increased the cost of coverage per risk-based financing models. Brokers more often pushed policies that covered several individuals and shored up a prerogative to provide for children. Company X has done its research and knows that Swazis like to have many children, explained one broker in a presentation, and with this plan you can [cover] five, six or seven children. Some brokers pushed single or childless individuals toward group plans. As one broker explained to several women secretaries at a construction company, You might not have children now, but you know they will be here someday. You can then [cover] them. While brokers encouraged audience members to think about obligations to extended family members, they also put forth the idea that reproduction and a family were imminent for single or childless consumers. Both brokers and consumers were eager to maximize policies utility for extended kinship networks. In the context of household vulnerability and unsteady employment, the prospect that future cash would assure well-being for kin was a powerful motivator for subscription. Consumers were particularly concerned about how to add deceased relatives children to their policies. The following exchanges between brokers and prospective consumers show this concern and reflect how presentations worked as sites for the renegotiation of kinship that began at the point of subscription and subsequently unfolded over the lives of both policies and persons. Transcriptions are translated from siswati, and English terms are indicated in italics. The first example comes from a large presentation at a workers union burial cooperative. One male worker forwarded the following question, eliciting murmured affirmations from his coworkers. Consumer: Brother, you are saying these things [about policies] and I am listening and would like to ask a question. Let us say one has three kids already. Can that person also take nieces onto their policy? The nieces lost their father and mother. How many nieces and other children can I put in for this [policy]? 86

7 Compassion technology American Ethnologist Figure 2. Union members enter a convention hall to hear an insurance company present its administrative service options to the union s burial cooperative. Manzini, Swaziland. October 30, Photo by Casey Golomski. Broker: My brothers, you can take them, and there is no limit. You can take up to ten. The first five are under the family plan and the last five you pay for as individuals. The consumer first spoke about a hypothetical policyholder with entrusted children from a deceased relative, but in the course of his question he revealed his identity as the nieces guardian. The broker quickly accommodated his concern and extended it to the audience generally. Another example comes from a small presentation at a state agricultural cooperative office. The consumer, a man, was a technician, and the broker was a woman. Consumer: Thank you, sister. I am learning to see what this insurance thing is about. Please let me ask a question. You see, I now have these two children with me. My brother put them in. My brother died and their mother died too. Broker: I see. They are [the children] of the deceased. These children here were put in. C: And the father is dead. You see. My brother gave them to me. My brother and I come from the same mother, but we don t have the same surname and the children are with me. It was put in the belly. What can I put in for them? Here the consumer also opens by addressing the broker in kinship terms, not uncommon and respectful modes of address within and between generations of persons. The consumer first identifies how the children came into his guardianship: They were put in his house at the discretion of or after negotiation with his brother, the children s father. The broker acknowledged and understood the technician s phrasing of children being put in, and the consumer then further qualified the placement as put in the belly, kufaka esiswini, which I unpack in the following section. The worker and his brother had different surnames, meaning they had different fathers; ideally, these children would go to the household of a man s brother if the two brothers had the same father. Families in Swaziland have long sought integration through idealized forms of social organization (Kuper 1980) that are, in actual practice, much more elastic (Russell 1984:610), and insurance was nominally presented as a flexible technology to accommodate shifting kinship arrangements. In these two examples, consumers voiced concern for the welfare of deceased relatives children, and brokers introduced policies as instruments to cohere spouses and children as a nuclear family unit. According to the stipulations of insurance policies, individuals beyond the nuclear family unit were distinctive extra persons who could be made into dependents and beneficiaries of the policyholder. Policies enacted an economized construction of kinship and established relations of dependency between policyholders and their beneficiaries, financializing the 87

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