This chapter takes as its starting point a 2012 cover of The Economist with the headline ‘Cry, the beloved country: South Africa’s sad decline’. This cover conjures up a powerful racialized imaginary which connects contemporary emerging markets finance to histories of colonialism and empire. Indeed, by depicting a mob of angry Black men armed with pikes, the cover suggests that the ‘sad decline’ in question (a deep socio-political and financial crisis, credit rating downgrades and large-scale financial capital flight) is due to threatening, uncontrollable and violent masses of Black people. I bring this cover into conversation with a number of quotes from interviews that I conducted with state and private actors in South Africa. I show that what those actors call ‘Afro-pessimism’ – a reference to the remarkable timorousness of international investors in South Africa – is a manifestation of the processes of ‘othering’ and racialization through which South Africa and other sub-Saharan African countries have been discursively constructed as investment destinations. I use the cover and the interview quotes to discuss how relations of race and coloniality are reproduced through the production of financial knowledges and patterns of financial capital flows, with material consequences for the people living in the spaces construed as African emerging markets.
Oil, notes David McDermott Hughes, is ‘most dangerous when it behaves ordinarily and when people treat it as ordinary … Only the abnormal event – the spill – brings a black goo into view and into contact with human flesh.’ In Part I, Tracy Lassiter and Imre Szeman take as their starting point the banality of oil infrastructure in settler-colonial landscapes. Alysse Kushinski moves to consider not the aesthetics of infrastructure’s ‘background’ presence, but the aesthetics of transparency and the ways in which oil infrastructure can be just as dangerous when its volatile, leaky nature is made transparent.
It’s an innocuous enough image: two men standing before a wooden structure with another group of (white) men in the background. The two men, Edwin Drake and Peter Wilson, actually stand before the Drake Well, the first oil well, drilled on 27 August 1859 in present-day Titusville, Pennsylvania. But in the intervening centuries, the oil industry has turned into a global economic juggernaut, causing rampant worldwide political, economic and racial exploitation. Nations fight wars over oil and, on local scales, protests and resistance movements challenge the industry’s power. It meets resistance in Nigeria, the Amazonian rainforest, Standing Rock, North Dakota and elsewhere. Leaking pipelines and toxic refineries usually are built where marginalized communities live. ‘Boom!’ would connect this historical image to the global force the oil industry has become. Where the industry ‘booms’, it generates billion-dollar profits and creates economic benefit for employees and regional governments. Yet it does so at the cost of lives, health and the environment. We can expect more frequent resistance to ‘boom’, too, as exploited peoples and concerned activities fight for our planet’s future.
‘Not everyone alive in the present is automatically included in its sense of “living” or “present’’.’ This quotation from Esther Peeren’s book The Spectral Metaphor offers a thought-provoking frame for the three chapters in Part III, in which migration into the UK and USA vividly embodies colonialism’s afterlife. Eve Dickson, Rachel Rosen and Kehinde Sorinmade contend that twenty-first-century borders have their own temporality. The temporality of borders for many racialized migrants could mean that daily life is structured by concerns about debt repayments and the need to constantly keep up with bureaucratic requirements. Kathryn Medien looks at another border erected at hospitals, clinics and sites that form Britain’s National Health Service or NHS. Medien portrays the UK border as a lethal apparatus that criminalizes movements through carceral surveillance. Christian Rossipal then examines the US immigration detention system, itself a billion-dollar industry and an extension of the prison-industrial complex.
G*** Rush coins are communicative technologies/artefacts reflective of the US nation-building project. This chapter uses an image of the 1853 and 1854 g*** dollar coins as a launching point to discuss the switch the image stamped on the coin from that of Lady Liberty wearing a coronet to that of Lady Liberty wearing an Indigenous headdress. This project is inspired by coins found in G*** Beach, Oregon during an archaeological excavation conducted collaboratively with tribes in Oregon, namely the Coquille Nation. The chapter discusses how the coins are reflective of imperialist nostalgia, and a misguided attempt to honour or eulogize the dispossession of Indigenous peoples. Ultimately, these g*** coins flowing from the five operating US mints in the mid-1850s sought to eradicate various Indigenous currencies in circulation (e.g. dentalium, beads, potlatch systems). G*** and other metals served as a fetish for colonizers; a means to claim and usurp land, impose power and war on tribes in order to extract the natural resource. Raw materials were then refined, processed, pressed into coins and stamped with signifiers that shed light on the financial power dynamics associated with Manifest Destiny. The scope of the chapter is then broadened to discuss more contemporary US coins with Indigenous icons and what the longevity of this trope communicates about racial/national relations with Indigenous nations.
‘Circulation’ is a popular way to describe how money works. One metaphor suggests that money irrigates economies as water irrigates land. This metaphor is so popular that someone even built a machine to illustrate the flow of money. If you ever happen to be in the city of Wellington, you can visit the MONIAC machine on display at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. In Part II, the three contributors press you to consider deeper meanings circulated by coins, banknotes and other financial assets. Catherine Cumming gets right to the heart of matters, rereading Aotearoa New Zealand’s colonial history to unearth a paradox beneath the idea of money as circulation. Ashley Cordes engages in an equally important revisionist history project, this time highlighting the Coquille nation in Oregon, USA. Cordes traces how early coinage across settler America circulated colonial fantasies of bravery and superiority, ideas of American nationhood, myths of the American dream and economic success through enslavement. Yet the iconography on these coins masked brutal genocides, stolen lands, broken treaties and debts owed to indigenous American peoples. Syahirah Abdul Rahman dissects the colonial extraction and circulation of the mineral ore tin, a circulation of finance capital that haunts Malaysia to this today, centring her analysis on tins of Milo.
Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the global venture-philanthropy Acumen Fund, begins her autobiography, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World (2009), with a remarkable story. In 1987, at age twenty-five, she went for a jog through the streets of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where she was establishing a microfinance institution for women living in poverty. She was stopped in her tracks by the appearance of a young boy wearing a distinctive blue sweater – ‘my sweater’ – identical to one she had worn as a child. Twenty years later, on the other side of the world, she checked the tag to find her name written on it. Novogratz is an influential figure in the social entrepreneurship and impact investing world, which promotes entrepreneurial solutions to global poverty to accelerate economic development. This chapter uses her book cover to explore how Novogratz uses storytelling in the cultivation of a particular ethos of charismatic entrepreneurialism and privatized philanthropy amid postcolonial landscapes. Her book has converted many champions for philanthrocapitalism, and the chapter questions how such narratives of market-driven development attempt to ‘ethicalize’ and rework older colonial logics of debt, value extraction and racialized difference.
Seeking to understand how capitalism had, in the late twentieth century, emerged new forms of power, the French radical philosopher Gilles Deleuze sought to define it as a ‘society of control’. While at first this may sound Orwellian, Deleuze was interested in how social power was increasingly operating not through centralized disciplinary institutions (militaries, police, schools, factories) but through decentralized networks, creeping through society like a ‘spirit or a gas’. Deleuze pointed specifically to the coercive power of debt and credit markets as a prime example. In a society of control, financial power operates from everywhere and nowhere at once. The two chapters in Part VII challenge this established notion by expanding a concern with control to think about capitalism’s built environment, which forms part of the techniques of control that modify the behaviour of society, and examine more closely the obscure architecture that materially houses the abstract symbolic power of equity and credit. The first chapter, by Laura Kalba, disrupts the presumed histories of spaces at the centre of financing colonial expansion as qualitatively different than the present day. The second chapter, by Jacquelene Drinkall, examines the transactional symbolic violence of data surveillance and harvesting by the information and communication technology machinery of modern finance.
Extending existing dialogue generated by participants of the ‘Data Centre Séance’ psychgeographic artwork, this chapter engages with critical dialogue on transactions of psychic debt and trauma at the nexus of global panoptics, the neoliberal state, finance, economy, the US National Security Agency and corporate surveillance in the age of Googleopoly. ‘Data Centre Séance’ involved a collaborative ‘psychogeographic dérive’ focused on an austere data centre in Manhattan known as 33 Thomas Street and the Long Lines Building. Participants included the New York art and activist collective Art Codex associated with ABC No Rio, a hacker, a psychic, and an ARTnews art critic. This building was recently identified by Edward Snowden as the National Security Agency’s ‘TITANPOINTE’. Visual image analysis of a series of image stills documenting ‘Data Centre Séance’ is combined with a new look at work on telepathy and debt, surveillance and ecological debt.
Starting from a current photo of the Benguela Railway, this chapter tells the story of how the Angolan government, with oil-backed loans and construction expertise from China, sought to revitalise the colonial-era railway link from the Atlantic port of Lobito to the mining areas of Katanga and Zambia. This dream and its seeming failure in a context of economic crisis brought on by the 2014 commodity slump, reveals the limits to Angola's oil-fuelled reconstruction drive. At the same time it allows us to chart how the cyclical ups and downs of the global economy have impacted on Angola’s insertion into extractive capitalism, and how colonial-era ideals of professionalism and civilizedness reverberate in contemporary projects of self-making.