The Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire project is a multi-stage research, publication and event platform organized/edited by Clea Bourne, Paul Gilbert, Max Haiven and Johnna Montgomerie

This project aims to create dialogue between the fields of inquiry often known as “political economy” and “postcolonial studies” around the relationship between finance, financialization and debt and the histories, legacies and continuities of race, empire and colonialism. To do so, it assembles diverse scholars, activists and artists



  • Special journal issue: “Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire” (see below)
    • CALL FOR PROPOSALS for full-length articles, review essays, book reviews and interventions. Proposals due JUL 22 [extended], 2019
  • Book project “Imagining the Unseen: 20 pictures of debt’s empire, then and now” (see below)
    • CALL FOR PROPOSALS for short, accessible, image-driven chapters. Proposals due JULY 22 [extended], 2019.


Special Issue call for proposals: ‘Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire’

Deadline for abstracts: Friday JULY 22 [extended] 2019

We invite interested parties to submit an abstract to be included in a Special Issue proposal that gathers cutting-edge interdisciplinary thinking about the intersections of finance and colonialism, empire and race. In addition to the typical 9,000 word (including citations) peer-reviewed article, there are also opportunities for book reviews, review articles and shorter interventions.

The Special Issue will be targeted towards Journal of Cultural Economy, Finance & Society or ephemera. This proposal follows on from a 2017 gathering at Goldsmiths (“Colonial Debts, Imperial Insolvencies, Extractive Nostalgias”), a 2018 special focus section of Discover Society, and a recent 2019 gathering at Sussex (“Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire”), and we explicitly invite submissions from those who did not or were unable to participate in either of these events.

To propose a 200-word abstract for consideration, please use the following form:

For more information, please contact: or

Abstracts are due June 28, 2019. We will endeavour to have responses to applicants by mid-July and seek drafts by October 15, 2019, towards the goal of publication in 2020. We welcome contributions from a wide diversity of disciplines across the social sciences and also from the humanities as well.


  • Dr Clea Bourne (Senior Lecturer in Promotional Media, Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • Dr Paul Gilbert (Lecturer in International Development, University of Sussex)
  • Dr Max Haiven (Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice, Lakehead University)
  • Dr Johnna Montgomerie (Reader in International Political Economy, King’s College, London)


Has the emerging interdisciplinary field of critical study of finance, debt and financialization sufficiently accounted for the histories, legacies and ongoing realities of empire, colonialism and global racial ordering? What is being missed when these themes are marginalized? What accounts for this marginalization? What can be gained when they come into focus? And how might prioritizing them open not only different scholarly horizons, but also different interdisciplinary linkages and pathways towards policy, practice and action?

While scholars in the humanities have grappled with the long intertwined histories of slavery, empire and finance (Baucom 2005), social scientific engagements with finance have largely neglected questions of race and empire in their analyses of contemporary financial arrangements (Bourne et al. 2018). The vitality of the overlapping fields known as cultural economy, critical finance studies and the social studies of finance means that “the practices and processes of financial markets are now subjected to scrutiny from the disciplines of social anthropology, science studies, arts and humanities, and cultural geography amongst others” (Bennett, McFall and Pryke 2008, p. 3). Indeed, as the editors of one recent collection put it, “finance should be studied by all the social sciences” (Chambost, Lenglet & Tadjeddine 2018a, 2018b). And yet the “absence of studies on the roles of race and ethnicity in financial cultures” appears just as profound and surprising now as it was a decade ago, not least because “two major economic phenomena, colonialism and underdevelopment, are intimately connected with race and ethnic relations” (Sioh 2010, p. 118; see Appel 2018).

Responding to this charge, economic historians, economic geographers, and political economists might well point towards a well-established literature on the role of the City of London as the world’s great middleman, facilitating imperial expansion and leaving as its post-imperial legacy the network of offshore jurisdictions increasingly termed ‘Britain’s Second Empire’ (Cain & Hopkins 2016; Haberly & Wojcik 2015; Palan 2015). But our aim is not merely to deploy empire, race or colonialism as a means of explaining away finance as ‘socially constructed’. After all, is there not a risk that refracting analyses through time-lagged representations of colonial repression takes us further away from understanding the relationship between race, empire and finance in the present (O’Riley 2007)?

As such, we seek submissions that build on existing work in cultural economy by placing the “nature, character and operation” of finance’s relationship with race, empire and colonialism into question (cf. Bennett et al. 2008, p. 1). Such work has already begun to emerge outside the cultural economy/finance studies space, among historians concerned with the way that enduring legal concepts and insurance “techniques” were developed and adapted in the context of debates around the humanity of slaves trafficked across the Atlantic (Kish and Leroy 2015; Rupprecht 2016).

By inviting submissions that take an explicit concern with the entanglements of race, empire, colonialism and finance we acknowledge a debt to, and seek to go beyond, existing cultural studies work that have sought to “read the subprime crisis through a dual lens of race and empire” (Chakravartty and da Silva 2012, p. 364). Understanding the imbrication of race, racism and economy requires attention to diverse, situated processes of racialization – whether understood in terms of an “unfolding story of historical capitalism” or a “civilizational encounter between the West and the Rest” – as much as it does a careful anatomizing of financial arrangements (Virdee 2019, p. 22; Bhattacharyya 2018; Tilley and Shilliam 2017).

Equally, we encourage contributions from authors who leave behind the conventional geographies of finance studies. With few exceptions (e.g. Çalişkan 2010; Maurer 2013; Rudnyckyj 2019), work in cultural economy and the social studies of finance has tended to concern itself with the City of London, London’s Mayfair district, Chicago, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Zurich, or emerging global financial centres in China and the Gulf. (See variously Beunza and Stark 2008; Castelle et al. 2016; Clark and Monk 2010; Hardie and MacKenzie 2007; Lai 2012; Leins 2018; Miyzaki 2013; Ortiz 2014; Pardo-Guerra 2011; Zaloom 2006). Taking a lead from recent work that has examined the relationship between Wall Street and the Caribbean (Hudson 2017), we encourage submissions that trace outwards from global financial centres to reveal the imperial ambition and racist discourses which enabled such centres to experiment, ‘innovate’, and expand.  Equally, we are interested in counter-histories that tell the stories of other relations of financing, speculation and economic integration beyond the centre-periphery narrative.

Just as we seek to destabilize the conventional geographical preoccupations of finance studies, we also invite submissions that explore the nature, character and operation of finance in the context of shifting North-South relations, changing geographies of development, and new forms of imperialism and ‘sub-imperialism’ (Bond 2016). The emergence of ‘BRICS’ and the remaking of the former ‘Third World’ or ‘Global South’ as a set of ‘frontier’ and ‘emerging’ markets conjures a set of indices, metrics and speculative imaginaries that rest upon the erasure of faded anti-colonial projects, whilst also posing a challenge to certainties about the ‘West’ (Bourne 2015; Gilbert 2019; Kaur 2018; Tilley 2018). As much as past colonial encounters leave traces in contemporary financial organization, emergent financial certainties feed back into desires and strategies that re-shape the contemporary post-colony.

Finally, we seek contributions that examine the haunting of economic tools and methodologies by imperial ambition and colonial anxieties. If Keynesian economics was both informed by and tested through violent colonial encounters (Biltoft 2018; Goswami 2018; Patnaik 2017), how should this be accounted for in analyses of economic measurement (Mitchell 2010) and central banking (Holmes 2009) which make their entry into economic processes via Keynes and his concepts?

Towards these ends, we invite abstracts for academic articles directed towards themes that include but are not limited to:

  • The ‘haunting’ of contemporary financial orders and practices by colonial legacies;
  • Colonial genealogies of contemporary finance and their significance;
  • The relationship between historical colonialism and contemporary forms of colonialism (‘data’ colonialism, ‘green’ colonialism);
  • Methodological tensions or convergence between de/postcolonial studies & cultural economies/social studies of finance;
  • Intersections of gender, race/racialization, sexuality and contemporary forms of exclusion and exploitation with orders of debt, credit, extraction and neo-colonialism;
  • Visions of the decolonization of the economy and the social relations in which it is embedded, including questions of reparations, repatriation of lands and artefacts and radical movements for collective liberation.

For references, please visit:

Call for proposals: Imagining the unseen: 20 pictures of debt’s empire, then and now


Edited by Clea Bourne, Paul Gilbert, Max Haiven and Johnna Montgomerie

  • We are seeking pitches (200w) for short chapters that tell a story of the way today’s forms of debt, finance and/or money are entangled with the histories of race, empire and/or colonialism
  • Chapters of roughly 2,500 words will focus on a single demonstrative image (eg. artwork, map, artifact, advertisement) as a means to illuminate these entanglements
  • The collection will be geared towards a general audience and oriented towards use in classrooms. Talks are underway with several presses to ensure the best fit.

To submit a pitch, please use this short online form:

For more information, contact: Max Haiven –

The proposed edited collection, imagined as both a thoughtful introduction and a meaningful contribution to ongoing conversations, addresses the entanglements of debt, finance, empire race and colonialism through a series of short, accessible and image-driven essays. Made up of contributions by artists, activists, scholars, journalists and other thinkers, each chapter “unpacks” a significant and illuminating image: for instance, an artwork, a map, an advertisement, an artifact or a picture of a building.

This book project follows the success of a 2017 gathering at Goldsmiths (“Colonial Debts, Imperial Insolvencies, Extractive Nostalgias”), a recent 2019 gathering at Sussex (“Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire”), and a 2018 special focus section of Discover Society each of which brought together artists, activists and scholars. It is the companion project to the production of a special issue of a scholarly journal special issue (see above).

The goal of this collection is to offer diverse readers a venue to think through the complex tangle of forces at work in the creation of the economy, historically and today. The collection will maintain a special focus on the way the legacies of empire, race and colonialism persist in the present: from the transatlantic slave trade to today’s racialized global working class, from the early days of settler colonialism to contemporary extractive industries, from direct colonial rule to our worldwide empire of debt. Equally, we envisage contributions which emphasize the traces that financial exploits deposit in wider social and cultural landscapes, from architectural forms to communications infrastructure.

Since the 2008 financial crisis plenty of accessible books on finance and the broader trend of financialization have appeared. There has also recently been a renewed attention to the economic legacies and present-day manifestations of the racial hierarchies of empire and colonialism. This will be among the first collections to bring these themes together.

Uniquely, this collection seeks to bring together not only scholarly experts but also artists, activists, journalists and others to offer a multifaceted approach. It is written for newcomers to this conversation, providing an entry point into debates about finance for those who might feel ‘uninitiated’, but doing so with rigour and nuance. It will mobilize images as a means to tell a complex and interwoven story about how our current financial and (post)colonial moment came about.

Overview for prospective contributors

Towards an exploration of these themes, the editors invite contributions along the following dimensions

  • All chapters will open with an image, selected by the author. In the case of artists, this might be a single image of/from their work; in the case of academics and others this might be a particularly striking, demonstrative or iconic image related to their research.
  • The chapters are structured around explaining the image and its contexts and significance to a broad, thoughtful but diverse audience. We encourage authors to imagine first- or second-year undergraduate students. Don’t feel the need to develop a close reading of the image itself: we’re interested in how the image presents a jumping-off point for discussing the bigger issues at play.
  • Chapter should be about 2,500 words in length and might be guided by the following questions
    • What is this image and what are its origins? What does it represent?
    • How does this image or what it pictures help us think about the intersections of finance/financialization and the histories, legacies and presents of colonialism, imperialism and/or racism?
    • What are the stakes and the important dimensions of the problems the image reveals?
  • We encourage approaching these chapters as storytelling.
  • While we can offer some limited assistance, it is unfortunately the responsibility of authors to secure the reproduction rights to images.
  • We prefer authors keep citations to a minimum. While details of preferred citation style will be distributed later in the process, please include a short “further reading” section with some of the texts you found most illuminating.

Thank you for your interest in the ReImagining Value Action Lab. This website is no longer being updated and is for archival purposes.

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