ReImagine Value

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May 10, 2019  

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

May 10, 2019

“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:

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.