Course Catalog

01:988:410 Debt, Crisis, and Women’s Health


We are more than what we owe. Yet, the heightened role of financialization in the global economy over the past 60 years has increasingly bound global policy, national health infrastructures, social life and human health to a moral calculus of indebtedness. Debt is the fundamental economic and social formation that has fueled the global economy since the 1970s; at the center of which is an economic system of wealth accumulation by dispossession. This economic doctrine is largely responsible for the unprecedented inequality and the health consequences of economic stress that plague the present era. To analyze this connection, this class approaches debt through interdisciplinary frameworks of analysis. It investigates debt and crisis as economic, social, political and cultural constructs that shape who we are, how we relate to others and how we experience health.

Taking a long-historical view of how debt has evolved to become the binding glue of the contemporary global economy, the class focuses on the interconnected ways that the global credit economy perpetuates and depends on inequality and crisis. In particular, the course highlights how and why the adverse health consequences of debt disproportionately impact poor people and women. Seeking to unsettle conventional market-centric understandings of individual obligations to pay back what we owe, the class will entail a systemic and relational investigation of our social and ethical obligations to the lives and well-being of others. In so doing, we will regard credit and debt as interlocking components of structural inequality. Over the course of the semester we will explore the following questions:

  • What is debt and what are its origins?
  • How does debt contribute to different forms of crisis? Like:
  • Health emergencies
  • Economic collapses
  • Unravelling of democracies
  • How has debt become an unspoken governing force in national and global systems of social discipline and criminalization?
  • Why has debt been used to undermine our social responsibilities to the public good and global well-being?
  • What can be done to mitigate debt and/or to rebuild a health promoting sustainable economy?


To develop a basic understanding of credit, crisis and economic systems.

By the end of the semester, students will be able to explain how credit and debt function within the broader global economy and how the debt-centric financial system relates to economic risk, crisis and human health.

To critically diagnose the social and cultural impacts of debt as it relates to women’s health and life opportunities.

Through comparative analysis of the webs of exchange and structural mechanism through which debt binds people together, students will assess different scales and contexts in which debt differentially impacts diverse people and disparate groups in a broad matrix of inter-relationships.

To analyze and critically address systemic problems that debt creates.

Through deep engagement with current research and scholarly debates, students will assess the strengths and weaknesses of critical conversations related to debt and crisis. Students will demonstrate their understanding of course materials in discussion boards and writing assignments. They will also be able to produce sound arguments using course materials to support their own critical interventions and assessments.

To maximize student’s capacity to make meaningful and effective interventions toward creating healthy economies.

Through collaboration and individual assignments, students will fine tune their analytical, rhetorical and critical skills with the aim of amplifying the power and influence of their critiques. They will develop their ability to effectively account for and explain the human harms and hardships caused by imbalanced and unfair debt relationships and they will strategically produce counter-proposals for healthier alternatives by:

  • crafting well organized written arguments.
  • developing rhetorical and critical tools for thoughtfully engaging in on-line dialogue and public discussions.
  • identifying and using effective strategies for presenting ideas and encouraging critical dialogue.
  • collaborating with others across differences of perspective, location, background and interests in pursuit of common goals.