Otobong Nkanga’s artwork The Weight of Scars allows for an interrogation of some of the complex and non-linear connections between mining, finance and racial violence across both time and space. Nkanga’s artwork, where what intuitively looks like a world map bears no resemblance to the ordinary mappings of continents and oceans, and yet is still evocative of land and seas in entirely new shapes, makes us look again at what at first sight appears familiar, to challenge certain taken-for-granted understandings. The title of Nkanga’s 2018 exhibition – ‘To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again’ – of which the work The Weight of Scars forms part, bears a resemblance an expression often heard within mining finance circles in London, Cape Town and Johannesburg, of ‘the hole in the ground that cannot be moved’. The sense of repetition in Nkanga’s title reverberates not only with concerns about boom and bust cycles but also with the way in which mining finance itself carries with it traces of colonial and imperial pasts. This chapter delves into how Nkanga ́s artwork can open up ways of thinking about the relationship between mining finance and racialized capital accumulation that can transverse spatial and temporal boundaries.
The lure of the image or the object as ‘evidence’ is perhaps both more compelling and more unsatisfying when the ‘crime’ or set of relationships we are seeking to understand is related to financialization and neoliberalism amid their entanglements with colonialism and imperialism. The chapters in Part V each take otherwise innocuous images or things and help us to realize that the gesture or transaction they represent contains worlds. Holly Randell-Moon (Chapter 14) presents the 1975 image of two men passing one another sand, a gesture marking the symbolic ‘return’ of land by the then Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to Indigenous Gurindji elder and activist Vincent Lingiari. But Randell-Moon also takes us behind the camera to explore the life and career of Mervyn Bishop, the first Aboriginal photographer employed by major newspapers and by the Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Zenia Kish (Chapter 15) introduces us to ‘venture philanthropy’ celebrity Jaqueline Novogratz, whose bestselling 2009 book The Blue Sweater refers to Novogratz’s rediscovery of ‘her’ blue sweater, previously donated to a charity box, worn by a young boy she met in Rwanda. Alessandra Ferrini (Chapter 13) presents us with another image-within-an-image, this one of a 2009 encounter at a Rome airport when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi greeted Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi wore pinned to his chest an image of Omar al-Mukhtar, iconic leader of the Libyan resistance to Italian colonial occupation in the first half of the twentieth century who was tortured and killed by Italian forces in 1931.
‘You owe £1200 for school lunches. Your son cannot go to prom before your debt is settled.’ This excerpt from a school letter marks a new chapter in the entanglement of mobility and (neo-)colonialism. While some of the most destitute families in the UK are migrants subject to ‘no recourse to public funds’, children from such families are excluded from free school meal provision, an intervention purportedly intended to mitigate the impacts of poverty. In the context of a rapid marketization of education, including the rise of policy-setting neoliberal academies, children may also be barred from bringing packed lunches to school, required to either incur debt to eat or go hungry. An indebted subject is thus produced at the interface of an immigration policy of ‘enforced destitution’ – designed to deter the settlement of negatively racialized postcolonial subjects from Britain’s erstwhile Empire – and the global ubiquity of debt incurred to ensure sustenance in an era of neoliberal financialization. This chapter traces outward from this artefact of parent–school communication to examine its place within a web of survival debts and the historical and present-day circulation of bodies and capital between sub-Saharan Africa and the UK. It points to the ways that debt is racialized and implicated in the production of a ‘second’ British empire
Flanked by trees, telephone poles and wires, a Black woman walks toward the camera and away from the horizon. A voiceover intones: ‘I’m only seventeen but I know about investing.’ One of five ads in the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) ‘I am your dividend’ campaign, each TV spot modifies the long-standing UNCF slogan ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste ...’ with ‘... but a wonderful thing to invest in’, introducing a new financial product, the Better Futures Stock, as a means of contributing to the fund. At once monetary and ‘social’, ‘I am your dividend’ proposes a future of realized profit and human potential through financialization. Though here articulated in terms of philanthropy, for universities, the federal government and the student debt industry, those like Sydni, the woman in the image, are both product and producer. Articulating what Jackie Wang calls ‘expropriation through financial inclusion’, Sydni’s claim to ‘know about investing’ signals the imperative of the entrepreneurial self, the reduction of knowledge production to financial speculation and, perhaps, an ironic and resistive ‘knowingness’ regarding investments in higher education. This chapter explores and critiques this intertwining of knowledge, debt and diversity in the financialized university.
Bird’s-eye view maps and clock time were not only crucial to European navigation of the oceans that enabled colonialism and capitalism, they were also essential to the management of colonies and workforces. And as these ways of imagining space and time became dominant they erased other traditions for imagining space and time as well. Yet what do these dominant forms of imagining space and time hide? Part VIII focuses on the way activists, scholars and artists today are challenging the way we have learned to imagine space and time thanks to the forces of financialization and neoliberalism. In all three chapters we are introduced to experimental techniques for seeing the relation between things in space and time. Against the celebratory culture of corporate-led globalization that promises that it will bring peace and prosperity to Latin America, Samaniego and Mantz show us how the Beehive Design Collective of artists, educators and activists has drawn on interviews and research with activists to create a different image. Styve interprets Otobong Nkanga’s mixed media piece The Weight of Scars (2015) (featured on this book’s cover), which features printed photographs of Namibian landscapes fractured by extractive mining within a broader tapestry of traditional fibres. Bhattacharrya’s diagram begins from an attempt to create an image, and so help us to imagine how the world system might appear if we ‘mapped’ it from the perspective of how dominant systems are related.
This chapter tells the story of an imaginary map of racial capitalism. The image functions as both mystery and diagram, leading the viewer to trace possible routes of culpability and connection but also illustrating unexpected relations of supplementarity. In a previous imperial era, the pictorial depiction of Britannia sought to visualize a set of global connections with Britannia herself at centre, in a relation of benevolence and/or domination to the massed others of the world. This story and image reflects on this earlier genre of visualizing a particular moment in the history of racial capitalism. In particular, the image raises the following questions: who or what centres systems of racial capitalism today? What does the ‘periphery’ look like in our time? How can we conceptualize the supplementary role of social reproduction and imagine social reproduction beyond the household? What clues can we uncover to trace the spatial pathways inhabited by racial capitalism? What, still now, lives in the shadows and what practices of imagination can help us to touch those spaces?
We live in a colonial global economy. Colonialism has always operated through the creation and maintenance of racial hierarchies and exclusions. Financial practices and financial institutions have been as intimately entangled with racial hierarchy, racism and white supremacy as have colonizing states and their bureaucracies. The chapters in this book all share a concern with the entanglement of race, empire and finance in the colonial present. Each and every chapter is organized around an image: a photograph, work of art, map, advert or diagram. For some, the central concern is the relationship between hostile borders, race, migration and personal indebtedness. For others, it is the relationship between extractive infrastructure and the transition from European to Chinese investment in Africa. Several chapters are concerned with the settler colonial settings of contemporary Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Some are historical, some personal and others based on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork. We have chosen to organize this book around a set of images to facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and learning. We invite you to explore your own connections as you unpick and identify the manifold entangled legacies which make an appearance in this collection.
The picture at the opening of the chapter portrays former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi greeting Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi as he arrives in Rome in 2009. The meeting celebrated the Treaty on Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation between Italy and Libya and the signing of the Bilateral Agreements that have led to the current racialization of the Mediterranean border (through Italy’s right to send migrants arriving by sea back to Libya, where they are incarcerated in detention camps that severely violate human rights). Pinned to Gaddafi’s chest was a photograph of the Libyan anticolonial leader Omar al-Mukhtar in chains, taken before he was executed by Mussolini's army in 1931. This gesture sparked outrage in Italy, as it was perceived as a mockery of Berlusconi’s earlier visits to Libya where he presented formal apologies and reparations for the Italian occupation of Libya (1911–43) as part of the Treaty. Yet, Berlusconi’s politics of apology was motivated by Italy’s need to reach agreements with Gaddafi on the control of migration across the Mediterranean, as well as agreements on commercial deals – from the supply of oil and gas to the creation of a free market zone in Libya for Italian companies. Thus, colonial reparations were accompanied by a reinforcement of neocolonial relations.
Since 2013, immigration bonds set by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has seen a 70% increase – making them an unaffordable alternative for the vast majority of asylum seekers. The company Libre by Nexus saw a way to profit from these policy changes and now acts as a middleman to secure bonds. Forced to sign contracts in English, and desperate to get out of detention, migrants are lured into a debt trap: Libre by Nexus helps migrants to get out, but it requires electronic monitoring by ankle bracelets that track GPS data – and the wearer pays a $420 monthly fee for this device. With additional initial fees, and the average immigration proceeding taking more than twenty-one months, the final amount to be paid often exceeds the bail bond itself. This chapter uses a Libre by Nexus advertisement to introduce and analyse the visual discourse around their business venture and around ‘zero tolerance’ policies, borders and debt more broadly. Special care is taken to consider the insidious nature of humanitarian pretences, since the company purports to work in the interest of migrant family reunification – something that is clearly shown in the ad itself.
The Mesoamérica Resiste poster by the Beehive Design Collective is an interactive, open access and user-friendly artwork that illustrates the complex interconnections between colonial and capitalist designs for Mesoamerica as envisioned by global financial and neoliberal governance systems on the one hand, and Indigenous grassroots resistance on the other. As an artwork created collaboratively with multiple Indigenous and peasant communities from Mesoamerica, it represents contemporary struggles and resistance through visual storytelling and Indigenous symbolism. Folded together, the poster illustrates a colonial-style map of Mesoamerica that details the global imperial designs, extractive fantasies and mega-developmentalist projects of the North American Free Trade Association, Central American Free Trade Association and the Bretton Woods institutions. Upon unfolding this colonial map, a perspective from ‘below’ – the perspective of the Ant in some Indigenous cosmologies – is revealed, highlighting the often-erased stories of Indigenous resistance against contemporary extractivist, exploitative and ecocidal mega-projects.