The purpose of the chapter is to engage with the relationship between the gift and the market in the context of philanthropic micro-lending. We seek to move beyond theorizing separate, ex-ante gift or market regimes and transactors who independently navigate between oppositional modes of transaction. We turn to recent efforts of hybridizing charity and venture finance, exemplified by microfinance platforms such as Kiva.org. We combine data from an existing study of Kiva and its online community, with additional participant observation and third-party accounts detailing the evolution and workings of microfinance. We illustrate how market-like elements are productively and problematically deployed in philanthropic giving and address the need to consider a broader range of socio-material relations involved in the framing of transactions. A complex network of actors and (trans)actions needs to be assembled for the philanthropic loan to be enacted. We touch upon the making and role of the socio-material devices that actively participate in such enactment only tangentially. Further research is needed to flesh out the respective transaction complex, taking additional note of the work of borrowers, local loan officers, and other less visible actors. Organizations need to recognize and creatively address the complex interplay of gift and market elements. They need to pay attention and take advantage of the tensions and synergies emergent in hybrid gift-market contexts. We engage with a complex, less studied transaction context. The chapter shows that philanthropic gift relations can be reproduced through market-like elements and arrangements. Such production entails complex socio-material networks mobilizing a broad array of human and nonhuman actors.
Research in Consumer Behavior: Consumer Culture Theory, 2013, p. 209-223