In the shadow of debt: Liminality and the making of insurance subjects

Dr Shaun French1

1University Of Nottingham


Meteorological and aquatic metaphors are frequent narrative devices in accounts of global finance and crisis.  Little critical attention has, however, been paid to the ways in which images of weather and water saturate the visual cultures of mass finance.  The paper reports on a study of insurance advertising in the UK.  Working at the intersection of Lazzarato’s theory of the indebted subject, critical insurance studies, and literature on everyday financialization the paper examines ways in which financial subjects are produced in, and through space and place.  The analysis focuses on two geographical imaginaries that mark insurance advertising.  First, images of domestic space.  Visual tropes such as umbrellas and wellington boots are used to signify, I argue, not simply the promise of respectable domesticity, but a possessive individualism secure from the twin threats of nature and society.  Second, images of liminal space, not least spaces betwixt land and water.  While much recent emphasis has been placed on finance’s powers of abstraction, the frequent mobilisation of liminal visual tropes such as beachscapes in insurance advertising spatially index Lazzarato’s assertion that it is in the movement between processes of social subjectification and machinic desubjectification that governance of the self takes place.


Dr Shaun French is an economic geography at the University of Nottingham, UK.  He has a PhD from the University of Bristol.  His research interests are in the geographies of finance and in particular the geographies of insurance, contemporary processes of biofinancialisation, financial subjectification, and the politics of financial exclusion and differentiated access to banking and retail financial services.


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