This essay examines anxieties concerning interpersonal obligations that gathered within and around low-income households of a redeveloping Chicago public housing project in the years following comprehensive public housing and welfare reform. These households navigated competing demands. Leaseholders continued to feel beholden to expectations that they distribute any resources to which they had access, such as shelter. At the same time, increased monitoring of dwindling resources resulted in gossip and suspicion that made such expectations difficult to manage. Drawing on anthropological studies of witchcraft, I argue that what was at stake in the expression and management of resource anxieties was not households' “dysfunction” or “cooperation,” but something far more explosive: the constant triaging of obligations in relation to the risks they could pose at any moment.

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