Intimate Economies: Race, Abstraction, and Global Finance in the Contemporary Novel

My book manuscript, “Intimate Economies: Race, Abstraction, and Global Finance in the Contemporary Novel,” dismantles the dominant narrative of finance as an asocial and immaterial form of capital. Instead, I read the abstracting logics of finance alongside other forms of social abstractions that play out unevenly along lines of race and indigeneity in order to show the centrality of finance capital to the upholding of white supremacy.

Existing accounts of finance depict it as an economic form that has gained ascendancy in the United States since the early 1970s and has spread globally since that moment. This narrative occludes both the long histories of the financialisation of marginalised populations with the U.S., as well as obscuring the different ways that finance has been received, created, and contested in different global locations. Intimate Economies reads works by contemporary novelists alongside urban planning archives, the development of the discourse of nanotechnology, the financialisation of natural resources, the discourse of philanthrocapitalism, and the forms of transnational activisms that resist the hegemony of racial capitalism. Reading these texts together brings to light both the varied material effects of finance capital across different geographies, as well as the variety of oppositional narratives that take shape in response to it. To this end, race and indigeneity are theoretically central to my analysis of finance capital, rather than optional add-ons to a pre-formed theory of the economy; similarly, the global is not a modifier that is appended to a North American theory of finance but is read in conjunction with it. Finance emerges in this project as a thickly material concern founded on and sustained by racial capitalism and settler colonialism.

Within the United States, finance is entwined with the histories of native genocide and slavery as forms of deadly accumulation that abstracted bodies and land in the service of capital creation.  Through readings of novels including Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones are Not My Child, Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and Tommy Orange’s There There, I argue that racial division as a site of difference creation is not in opposition to a logic of financial abstraction, but rather the lived modality of this abstraction.

In a global context, my book’s contribution is its analysis of the ways that “the economy” almost always means the U.S. economy in discussions of global finance. In contrast, my work draws on a comparative reading of texts set in locations such as Shanghai (Tash Aw’s Five Star Billionaire), Lahore (Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia), Cape Town (Lauren Beukes’s Moxyland), and the Gulf of Carpentaria (Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book) to refute this universalism by a close attention to the specificities of location. By reading the material underside of American finance both domestically and globally, my work theorises finance as an instrument of white supremacy both within and beyond the borders of the United States.

Girlish: Empire, Capital and Impossible Subjects

My second project “Girlish: Empire, Capital, and Impossible Subjects” theorises the rise of “the Girl” as a new frontier of global investment. The 1992 annual meeting of the World Bank placed investment in global girls front and centre, marking her shift from over-shadowed object to economic subject in the neo-Imperial gaze of Western economies. My project reads this discourse of the girl of the global south as a safe investment vehicle alongside the narrative of white Western girlhood as product and producer of an irrational and violent social disorder. Theorising girlhood beyond the arid outlines of entrepreneur or victim prescribed for her by global finance, I triangulate these divergent narratives with girls of colour, trans-girls, and girls residing under conditions of settler colonialism who are written off as sunk costs within the domestic US economy.