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Pricing Suffering: Ethnographic Approaches to Insurance

Monday 19 October 2020

Insurance compensates loss and helps people to overcome adversities. Insurance thus alleviates suffering related to health, the destruction of assets, or other kinds of loss. In this seminar, we will take an ethnographic approach to the relationship between suffering and insurance. We thus explore value as an amalgamation of financial, moral ánd emotional dynamics. Fieldwork in Brazil, India, Italy and The Netherlands shed light on how experiences and narratives of suffering shape people's understanding of insurance. Key questions that we address are: How do discourses of suffering become part of complex bureaucratic categories and procedures? What is the emotional work involved in suffering and how is this evaluated and priced by professionals involved in insurance? How do narratives and experiences relate to ideas about the legitimacy of suffering that exist in society at large?

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