The Department of American Culture and Literature warmly invite you to the following talk on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 16:30, G-160:
“A negative dowry”: Specters of debt and the family from the origins of the student loan industry in the United States
High levels of student loan debt are a cornerstone of higher education in the United States today. This talk provides an overview of the emergence of the country’s student loan industry between 1958 and 1973. I begin by outlining how the country’s first universal, federal program of student loans tethered the expansion of access to higher education to financial markets. I then discuss how the idea of “a negative dowry” of student loan debt for women circulated as a discursive space through which both supporters and detractors of the burgeoning industry aired concerns over the impact of market incorporation on the reproduction of family life and traditional notions of gender and labor therein. The talk concludes with a consideration of how the origins of student loan debt might be understood alongside the political unrest and social transformation of the late 1960s and early 1970s and how this historical context comes to bear on U.S. social and political life today.
Britain Hopkins is the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at Wellesley College, where she is working on her first book, Indebted Subjects: The Origins of the Student Loan Industry in a Neoliberalizing United States. This project is situated within her broader interests in U.S. empire and market governance in contemporary and historical perspective. Prior to Wellesley, she was Lecturer in Human Geography at St John’s College, University of Oxford. She completed her graduate studies in Geography at Oxford in 2021.