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Duke University Press

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Social Text

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This essay introduces and theorizes the central concerns of this special issue, “Economies of Dispossession: Indigeneity, Race, Capitalism.” Financialization, debt, and the accelerated concentration of wealth today work through social relations already configured and disposed by imperial conquest and racial capitalism. In the Americas broadly and the United States specifically, colonization and transatlantic slavery set in motion the dynamics and differential racialized valuations that continue to underwrite particular forms of subjection, property, commerce, and territoriality. The conception of economies of dispossession introduced in this essay draws attention to the overriding importance of rationalities of abstraction and commensurability for racial capitalism. The essay problematizes the ways in which dispossession is conventionally treated as a self-evident and circumscribed practice of unjust taking and subtractive action. Instead, working across the lethal confluences of imperial conquest and racial capitalist predation, this essay critically situates the logic of propriation that organizes and underwrites predatory value in the historical present. Against the commensurabilities and rationalities of debt and finance capitalism, conditioned through the proprietary logics of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, the essay gestures toward alternative frameworks for building collective capacities for what the authors describe as a grounded relationality.


Accepted version. Social Text, Vol. 36, No. 2 (June 2018): 1-18. DOI. © 20180 Duke University Press. Used with permission.

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