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Deception, Delay and Denial of Indebtedness: preliminary reflections on fieldwork in Oltenia (2009-2010)

Field of study: Cultural Anthropology

This paper refers to a contingent, but nonetheless important, aspect of a research that begun in 2005 and is now close to an end.1 The main project focuses on the unfolding of social relations of debt and duty in commercial and other rural social settings in Oltenia, Southern Romania. Since the privatization of retail commerce in 1989, large numbers of people have started buying consumer goods without paying on the spot; this occurs in the absence of any legal provisions. They refer to this practice using the vocabulary of “debt” (datorie): “selling on debt” and “buying on debt.” Debt relations are marked by the absence of interest, security, witnesses, formal agreements, evident means of sanctioning defaulters, as well as an elastic duration of repayment. The contrast to formal bank transactions – credit and debit relations – is striking.

Keywords: social relations, debt, Oltenia, 21st century

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