This essay argues that issues of sovereign state debt repayment and collection—too often assumed to be free of the contingency and elasticity of narrative—are deeply shaped by historically grounded discourses of sovereignty that delineate boundaries between the public and private arenas. Conventional understandings of international finance fail to address the complexities of who should repay sovereign state debt and whose assets should be collected in the event of nonpayment. For answers to these inquiries, the narrative of debt needs to be understood as embedded within narratives of sovereignty, which construct and shape who holds ultimate authority within a given territory.

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