ReImagine Value

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May 10, 2019  

(6) Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire: Cathy Berin, Gargi Bhattacharyya, and Johnna Montgomerie

"Future directions: Write-offs, write-downs and reparations" with Cathy Berin, Gargi Bhattacharyya, and Johnna Montgomerie.

On April 5-6, 2019 RiVAL was among the hosts of a two-day symposium at the University of Sussex on the topic of "Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire" which brought together artists, activists and academics. For more information, visit: http://rival.lakeheadu.ca/ghostsofempire/

In this recording you'll hear presentations from:

Cathy Bergin is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities at University of Brighton. Drawing on a background in literary history and cultural discourse, Bergin's primary research interests are in the politics of 'race' and colonialism in  African-American and Caribbean writing, focussing on cultural formations and Communist politics in the 20th Century. She is particularly interested in the concept of 'rage' as the expression of black historical consciousness and agency.

Gargi Bhattacharyya is Professor of Sociology and co-director of the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. Her recent work includes Rethinking Racial Capitalism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018) and Crisis, austerity and everyday life (Palgrave, 2015

Johnna Montgomerie is a Reader in International Political Economy at King's College London, she serves as the Co-Convenor of the International Political Economy Group (IPEG) and is a Council Member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Her research interests are in debt, financialisation, and the household, in particular in Anglo-America. Her newest book, Should We Abolish Household Debt? (London: Polity) offers new solutions for ending debt-dependent growth. Her most recent article, co-authored with Daniela Tepe-Belfrage, 'Spaces of Debt Resistance' is published in Geoforum, analyses the growing movements to resist debt in everyday life.

May 10, 2019  

(5) Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire: Research For Action and Femke Herregraven

"Making Visible Finance and the Afterlives of Empire" panel, with Research For Action and Femke Herregraven

On April 5-6, 2019 RiVAL was among the hosts of a two-day symposium at the University of Sussex on the topic of "Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire" which brought together artists, activists and academics. For more information, visit: http://rival.lakeheadu.ca/ghostsofempire/

Research for Action is is a London-based workers’ co-operative producing research to support social, economic and environmental justice.

Femke Herregraven is an Amsterdam-based artist with a research-based practice in which she maps out abstract financial processes and considers their implications. Her work concerns the physical infrastructure that financial processes need in order to operate, as well as their grave ecological consequences. These processes create images only built from code. These 'images' are not meant for human eyes, but are translated into representations that are visible to us and understandable to a certain extent. Herregraven focuses on the position of the human in these mechanisms and thus makes the immeasurable abstraction of data visible on a human scale

 

May 10, 2019  

(4) Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire: Nadine King Chambers, Catherine Cumming, and John Handel

“From the Shadow of a Mine to the Shadow of a Smelter - Entanglements of Extraction from Jamaica to British Columbia” and “How finance colonised Aotearoa: A concise counter-history” and “The financialization of American slavery and the mundane political economy of sovereign debt”

On April 5-6, 2019 RiVAL was among the hosts of a two-day symposium at the University of Sussex on the topic of "Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire" which brought together artists, activists and academics. For more information, visit: http://rival.lakeheadu.ca/ghostsofempire/

In this recording you will hear the following presentations:

  • Nadine King Chambers (University of Central Lancashire) “From the Shadow of a Mine to the Shadow of a Smelter - Entanglements of Extraction from Jamaica to British Columbia.”

    My post-graduate work as an un-invited Jamaican guest in Indigenous territories in British Columbia examines how bauxite mining in Jamaica is connected to that province. My presentation will be an invitation to consider the neo-colonial cost of the aluminium in the technology with which I research digital archival material. I attend to the history of multinational corporations working  with various colonial nation-states to produce the conditions for how mining in Jamaica (understood as Black geography) was co-constituted with deepening settler colonialism in unceded Indigenous geographies in the 1950s. My approach gathers the works of economist Norman Girvan detailing both the thwarted dream of the bauxite industry to power decolonization as well as the fraught promise of  technology for the Caribbean. My research provides an example of tensions between de/postcolonial studies; but also links how specific Haisla and Jamaican experience with different forms of dispossession for extraction echo in current struggles by Wet'suwet'en, Saik'uz and Stellat'en peoples.

    Nadine King Chambers was first housed in the shadow of a mine. Her MPhil/PhD research strives to attend to communities on the other side of the story who lived in the shadow of the smelter.

  • Catherine Cumming (University of Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand)) “How finance colonised Aotearoa: A concise counter-history

    This paper intervenes in orthodox understandings of Aotearoa’s colonial history in order to elucidate another history that is not widely known. This is a financial history of colonisation which, while implicit in existing accounts, is peripheral and often incidental to the central narrative. Economy goes unexamined as a condition of possibility for the colonial project, while the actions and motives of individuals and states are accorded centrality as key drivers of colonisation and, as such, form the anchoring points of historical narratives.

    This paper brings to light a counter-history of early colonial Aotearoa in which finance, financial instruments, institutions and practices, were integral means by which colonial emigration and occupation proceeded. What this demonstrates is not simply that finance was a central instrument for and within an overarchingly state-driven colonial project, but actively colonised Aotearoa.

    Catherine Cumming, of Ngāti Ranginui and Pākehā descent, completed a Masters in Sociology at the University of Auckland in 2018. With roots in critical theory and political economy, her research explores finance capital and financialisation, colonisation, decolonisation, and their intersections. Her paper ‘How Finance Colonised Aotearoa: A Concise Counter-History’ is forthcoming for publication in Wellington-based journal, Counterfutures.

  • John Handel (University of California, Berkeley) “The financialization of American slavery and the mundane political economy of sovereign debt

    In 1833, at the same moment that Britain abolished slavery in its empire, Britons once again became slave owners on the London securities market. In the late 1820s and early 1830’s the Baring Brothers worked with planters and bankers in the American South to create state guaranteed sovereign debt bonds that were backed by mortgaged slaves. As investment in the American South accelerated in the 1830s, other firms—most prominently the Rothschild’s—attempted to replicate the same financial instruments used by the Barings in other states across the American South. But these firms did not have the Barings same relationship with planters or network of agents on the ground, and thus their investments were not driven by the value of the underlying assets, but rather on the accumulation of transaction fees and inter-firm competition. Ultimately, the bad loans made by the Rothschild’s to slave states like Mississippi, Florida, and Arkansas culminated in the Panic of 1837 and a massive loss for the firm, but the financial instruments developed to represent mortgaged slaved eventually came to structure other sovereign debt dealings in Europe throughout the 19th century.

    John Handel is a PhD Candidate in history at the University of California, Berkeley where he specializes in Modern European History. His dissertation is a socio-technical history of the makings of the global financial system as it was first implemented under the aegis of the British Empire during the 19th century.

 

May 10, 2019  

(3) Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire: Franziska Müller, Rebecca Bramall, and Nick Bernards

On April 5-6, 2019 RiVAL was among the hosts of a two-day symposium at the University of Sussex on the topic of "Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire" which brought together artists, activists and academics. For more information, visit: http://rival.lakeheadu.ca/ghostsofempire/

In this recording you'll hear from the following:

  • Nick Bernards (University of Warwick) “Colonial legacies and the limits of financialization in sub-Saharan Africa

    • Promoting access to financial services for the poor, or ‘financial inclusion’, has emerged as a major policy objective in international development in the past decade. Critics have often linked the agenda of financial inclusion to wider dynamics of ‘financialization’. Yet, little attention has thus far been paid to the fact that these initiatives have, by many measures, failed. Access to financial services remains highly uneven, and financial institutions across the global south continue to primarily serve urban, middle-class borrowers. This paper investigates the roots of these contemporary failures in the enduring legacies of colonial financial systems. In particular, I explore the limits to contemporary market-building interventions posed by the shortcomings of financial systems built up around the needs of colonial economies oriented towards primary export products, and shaped profoundly by racialized ideas about the capacities of colonial subjects to manage debt, money, and participation in ‘modern’ economies. The paper examines debates about agrarian credit in colonial Senegal in order to make this argument.
    • Nick Bernards is Assistant Professor of Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick. He is author of The Global Governance of Precarity: Primitive Accumulation and the Politics of Irregular Work (Routledge, 2018).
  • Rebecca Bramall (University of the Arts London) “The colonial meddling never stopped’: stories about Empire and responsibility in contemporary tax justice discourse
    • It is widely recognized that British colonialism played a critical role in the establishment of the UK’s Overseas Territories as tax havens, and that a second ‘financial Empire’ was resurrected ‘out of the ashes of the first’ (Palan, 2015). Stories about this foundational moment are not over and done, but are constantly reworked and remade, not least in the current political moment. This exploratory paper will map and discuss some of the ways in which the history of the UK’s Overseas Territories as British colonies has been mobilised and animated by different actors in the context of efforts by the tax transparency movement to expose the structures that permit tax avoidance. It will focus on the narratives that circulated in the reporting of the impact of Hurricane Irma in September 2017 on the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and subsequently after the Mitchell-Hodge amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill in May 2018, which required British Overseas Territories to create public registers of businesses registered there. I will explore how these events provided opportunities for diverse actors to assert narratives about the former colonial status of the Overseas Territories in order to describe, affirm and contest relations of power and responsibility.
    • Rebecca Brammall is Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications at London College of Communication, UAL. Rebecca’s research explores the interpenetration of culture and economy, with a current focus on taxation imaginaries. Key publications include The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and a special issue of New Formations on Austerity (2016).
  • Franziska Müller (University of Kassel, Germany) “Greening the anti-politics machine: De- and repoliticizing Africa’s renewable energy transition
    • Green finance has become a game changer. The Sustainable Development Goals have set an ambitious agenda, which cannot succeed without the generous support of private capital. To achieve the 7th SDG – stable and reliable access to clean energy – an estimated US$ 308-333 billion has to be channelled into power infrastructures. This requires establishing new green funds and promotion programs as much as implementing special derisking instruments for green investors. In this regard private actors increasingly seek to tap Africa's renewable energy potential. Yet, while countries as for instance Uganda or Zambia have abundant resources, their political and economic infrastructures do not match the standardized investment conditions expected by foreign investors.
      Recently, “derisking” has advanced as a new political technology that aims at creating attractive level playing fields for incoming FDI, with international banks offering special insurances and stepping in as lenders of the last resort. Derisking has become a powerful tool for rendering states and economies accessible to foreign investors and for creating green economies literally from scratch, yet it may interfere into sovereignty and create new economic and political dependencies. So far, derisking activities have seldom been subject to critical research, and especially the role of green funding structures promoted by inter- and transnational institutions and insurance companies, (e.g. African Trade Insurance, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, World Bank, Munich RE) has only scarcely been acknowledged. My paper discusses the (anti)political and possibly neocolonial qualities of ‘derisking’ instruments for renewable energy transitions in Subsahara-Africa, based on empirical research done in Uganda and Zambia. For doing so, I draw back on critical accounts of postcolonial finance (LHM Ling, Branwen Gruffydd Jones) and green governmentality (Robert Fletcher, Tanja Li, James Ferguson).
    • Franziska Müller is a political scientist and leader of a research group on African energy transitions at the University of Kassel (http://bit.ly/africanenergytransition). Rooted in the fields of International Relations theory and Global Environmental Governance, her work focuses on the intersections of international relations and political ecology under circumstances of liberal governance and in postcolonial contexts. Her current research concentrates on energy transitions, global carbon governmentality and the anthropocene. She holds a Ph.D. in political science and a M.A. in political science and cultural anthropology.

At the event itself, the following presentation was made, but has been excised from the audio recording at the request of the presenters.

  • Sarah-Jane Phelan and Jenny Hewitt (University of Sussex) “Playing with Experiences of Displacement: Complexity,  Accountability, Global Reach Ambitions and the Toy Industry

    • Children shape and reshape subjectivities through play. The UN Refugee Agency estimates there to be over 11 million refugee children worldwide and ‘Play’ for these children has the potential to support the processing of experiences, as they grapple with understanding loss, new languages, isolation, racism, and potentially changes in family roles. Research has explored how refugee children use play to process, including using it as a way to perform resistance (Marshall: 2015). Recently, the Lego Foundation has pledged £100 million to support The Sesame Workshop’s work with refugee children to “provide critical new insights into effective models of learning through play for children affected by crisis” (Lego Foundation, 2019).  Mapping out the scope of this project’s philanthropic and research agenda, we will consider the potential impact of play and knowledge production when enacted in relation to toys and methods rooted in Euro-centric genealogies, and explore the issues inherent in holding such brands accountable.
    • Jenny and Sarah-Jane are doctoral researchers at the University of Sussex with ESRC-funded projects exploring political identity formation and agency among young people in the UK and the everyday expertise of market vendors during a period of deteriorating security in Burkina Faso respectively. Supported by joint funding from the ESRC Business Boost Funding, this project brings together their interdisciplinary frame to children’s experiences of the emergent political economy shaping the products and programmes created for them.

 

 

May 10, 2019  

(1) Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire: K-Sue Park and Jerome Roos in conversation

On April 5-6, 2019 RiVAL was among the hosts of a two-day symposium at the University of Sussex on the topic of "Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire" which brought together artists, activists and academics. For more information, visit: http://rival.lakeheadu.ca/ghostsofempire/

This inaugural panel begins with a dialogue between K-Sue Park and Jerome Roos on the topic of "Race, colonialism and debt, past and present"

K-Sue Park is the Critical Race Studies Fellow at UCLA School of Law for 2017-2019. She was previously an Equal Justice Works Fellow from 2015-2017, during which time she investigated predatory mortgage lending schemes and practiced foreclosure and eviction defense in the El Paso office of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Her scholarship examines the creation of the American real estate system and the historical connections between property law, immigration law, and American Indian law.

Jerome Roos is a Fellow in International Political Economy at the London School of Economics, and founding editor of ROAR Magazine. His first book, Why Not Default? The Political Economy of Sovereign Debt, is now out from Princeton University Press.