Ghosts of Empire

Finance Capital & the Ghosts of Empire:

Revisiting Colonial Debts, Extractive Nostalgias, Imperial Insolvencies

April 5th & 6th, 2019

Presented by the Centre for Global Political Economy & Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, University of Sussex in collaboration with the Reimagining Value Action Lab, Lakehead University (Canada)

Click her for PDF poster

Submit an abstract by February 22 or register to attend at:

  • How are today’s contemporary financial practices, innovations and architectures shaped by, and how have they helped to shape, colonialism, empire and the global production of race, racism and racialization?
  • What does attending to colonial legacies and lineages of the sphere we now call ‘finance’ contribute to critical political economic analysis?
  • Likewise, how can the rigorous tools of political economy reveal the nuances and patterns of empire, historically and today?
  • How is the world economy, past and present haunted, culturally and materially, by the trace of racialization, enslavement, indenture and odious debt?
  • Can postcolonial studies and the political economy of finance be drawn into a productive dialogue?
  • How can such a dialogue be in a productive exchange with the forms of art and activism that challenge existing power relations?
  • Is a ‘decolonial’ political economy of finance possible, and what would it look like?
  • And how can we reframe today’s political-economic and cultural challenges, from the persistence of global financial power to the revanchism of neonationlisms in light of such investigations?

Following an initial 2017 workshop exploring Colonial Debts, Extractive Nostalgias, Imperial Insolvencies (Bourne et al. 2018), this two-day event will bring together scholars, artists and activists working in fields including but not limited to anthropology, cultural studies, history, political economy, geography and sociology.

The recognition that Empire has been consequential for the geo-political configuration of international financial markets is almost a commonplace in certain approaches to economic history (Cain & Hopkins 2016) and global political economy (Palan 2015). Likewise, scholars assembled (rightly or wrongly) under the banner of “post-colonial” approaches readily accept that finance, debt and speculation have been key aspects of the colonial and neocolonial project (Baucom 2005; Wang 2018). But invoking empire as part of capitalism’s history itself does not necessarily break free of the Eurocentric perspectives and methodologies that characterise much of political economy (Kayatekin 2009; Dale 2009). Meanwhile, much work remains to be done to fortify our growing understanding of the cultural and sociological relationships between money, risk, race and global exploitation with the tools of political economy.

This gathering responds  to recent works that have examined the role of Wall Street banks in the colonization of the Caribbean (Hudson 2017), insurance ‘innovations’ in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and settler colonialism (Rupprecht 2016; Park 2018), the persistence of imperial “technologies” of race and racialization in the contemporary debt economy (Chakravvarty and da Silva 2013; Kish and Leroy 2015; Roy 2012) and colonial conquest as a crucible for the forging of contemporary understandings of property and corporate personhood (Birla 2013; Bhandar 2016; Yates 2018).

Towards these ends, we invite abstracts for 15-minute presentation with a strong but not exclusive focus on early-career scholars, artists and activists on 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 ‘data’ colonialism;
  • Methodological tensions or convergence between de/postcolonial studies & political economy
  • Intersections of gender, race/racialization, sexuality and contemporary forms of exclusion and exploitation with orders of debt, credit, extraction and neocolonialism
  • The vitality and challenges of activist and artistic responses to the above
  • 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.

Please submit your abstract by February 22, 2019 at the following link: Likewise, if you wish simply to attend but not present, please use the same form. We will strive to inform successful applicants by March 1, 2019. Limited and modest stipends are available to assist successful applicants with the costs of travel (eg. to/from London) and accommodation.

Publication opportunities will follow for participants and other interested parties.

For more information, please contact: P.Gilbert [at] sussex [dot] ac [dot] uk


  • 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)