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[Commlist] TOPIA CFP--Zero Credit: Countering the Dreams of Techno-Finance
Tue Feb 25 18:38:53 GMT 2020
Call for Proposals
“Zero Credit: Countering the Dreams of Techno-Finance”
Special issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue 44, Spring 2021
Edited by: Enda Brophy, Max Haiven and Benjamin Anderson
For decades under neoliberalism the circuits of finance have been
converging with those of information and communication technologies
(ICTs). High-tech and big money are leading poles of capitalist
accumulation as they restructure or eliminate other industries, capture
and transform a vast gamut of social relations, and generate frenetic
activity in the industrial expanse between them—a speculative and
unfettered field of development known as “fintech.”
The rise of techno-finance in the first two decades of the twenty-first
century presents a paradox. On the one hand, the commanding heights of
the financialized, digital economy have come crashing down to earth at
regular intervals. The dotcom bubble of 2000, the global financial
crisis of 2007/2008, and the widespread revelations regarding
surveillance capitalists’ models of data capture in the 2010s have
discredited these sectors and their elites. Techno-utopian schemes of
“financial inclusion” and the promises of a digitally networked public
sphere have increasingly appeared morally, politically and economically
dubious, if not bankrupt, when considered next to the social
disintegration such models have wreaked on a wide scale.
But if the history of capitalism has taught us anything, it is that
crises are hardly a barrier to new frontiers of accumulation. Across the
vast industrial intersection of finance and tech, the forging of
business plans, technologies, and dreams has been white hot. Mobile
lending apps have expanded their reach into the global south,
crypto-currency capitalists plan tax-free societies run on blockchain
principles, platform companies like Facebook dream up digital currencies
beyond state control, and the latest “development” schemes of the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank (2018) rely on the
possibilities of fintech. If the myth that better integration into
capitalist markets through the spread of ICTs will ameliorate the ills
of that system increasingly rings hollow (see Bernards 2019, Gabor and
Brooks 2017, Mader 2016, Manyika 2016), it still proves more than
functional in raising capital, marshalling labour, and providing the
ideological accelerant for new extractive schemes.
The fields of finance and tech converge in the notion of credit. On the
one hand, the financial apparatus is a capitalist system for producing
and allocating credit, a system that, today, as Randy Martin (2007)
observed, increasingly divides global populations into the celebrated
(and creditworthy) “risk-takers” and the discreditable and abject “at
risk” populations whose “financial illiteracy” must be policed and
contained (see also Haiven 2017). On the other, the notion of “credits”
and “accounts” has been borrowed from finance within the infrastructure
by which corporate technologies integrate “users” into their digital
empires. Here, as Nick Dyer-Witheford (2015) illustrates, labour and
life are increasingly disciplined and shaped by one’s accounts within
the hyper-securitized micro-economies of a handful of leading ICT
corporations. In both cases, the seemingly neutral, benign, or
technocratic notion of credit, its actuarial banality, serves to hide or
normalize the neocolonial forms of power and violence at work in our
financialized society of control. Each form of credit actualizes our
enrollment (and the expropriation of our data) within what Shoshana
Zuboff (2019) calls “behavioural futures markets.”
Moreover, with the integration of the spheres of finance and digital
technology we are witnessing the proliferation of modes of what Jackie
Wang (2018) calls “exclusion through financial inclusion” which, as
Paula Chakravartty and Denise Ferreira da Silva (2012) note, aim to
integrate the wretched of the earth into a sabotaged system (see also
Taylor 2019). These and other authors note that we must see this as a
continuation of the means by which capitalism has, throughout its
history, seen the poor, the colonized, and the racialized as vectors for
new experiments in financial technology, debt and economic power (Kish
and Leroy 2015, Roy 2012). Meanwhile, as Veronica Gago (2015) and Silvia
Federici (2018) point out, the expansion of digitalized global debt,
both national and personal, represents a capitalist seizure of the
sphere of social reproduction with particularly disastrous impacts on women.
We propose the theme of “Zero Credit” to designate two overlapping
conditions which are the starting point of this collection’s focus.
First, the familiar situation of having run out of credit, of being cast
out from, yet still enmeshed within, the digital circuits of
tech/finance. Second, we refer to the emergent situation of the
collective calling in of the ‘debts’ of global capitalism in the form of
people’s movement against and beyond financialization and the growing
demand for radical alternatives to the global financial order: our
credit may be at zero but so is our patience. As Frances Negron-Muntaner
(Pérez-Rosario 2018) notes, we are in an era marked by the power of
unpayable debts, as shown by the imposition of financially-led disaster
capitalism in Puerto Rico (see also Klein 2018). The increasingly common
condition of perpetual insolvency, of permanent bankruptcy, has become
the staging ground for a new moment of anti-capitalist politics (Berardi
2012). What are the possibilities of what Peggy Kamuf (2007) called
“accounterability” in the present moment? What are the methods for
countering the dominant measurements of accounts or of recounting value,
life, the economy or the possibilities of technology otherwise?
For this special issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies,
we seek to map the convergence of ICTs and the debt/finance system, as
well as to bring in to view the forces counteracting and organizing
alternatives the dreams of fintech. The editors welcome short proposals
(250-300 words) for contributions interrogating the intersections of (1)
emergent digital frameworks of power; (2) debt regimes, new and old; and
(3) the collective resistance of social movements. We are particularly
interested in critical examinations of interventions with the following
• Social media scoring and credit-worthiness
• The end of the cryptodream?
• Algorithmic discipline - real and virtual
• “Third World debts” in a digital age
• Racialized subjects of risk
• Subjectivities of default
• Digital currencies from below
• Reparations in a digital context
• Genealogies of digital technology in debt
• Colonial debt/colonial technology
• (Technologies of) mobility and debt
• Social credit and governmental debt/credit systems
• Credit and social power
• Utopian/dystopian credit economies
• Credit and social reproduction
• Credit, belief, faith
• Tax havens and digital offshore
• History of credit ratings
• Migration and debt
• Policy proposals and their dangers
• The temporal debts of extraction
Interested contributors should submit proposals by following this link:
The publication timeline is as follows:
• Deadline for abstracts: March 16, 2020
• Decision notification: April 3, 2020
• First drafts due: June 12, 2020
• Revisions due: October 13, 2020
• Anticipated publication date: Spring 2021
“The Bali Fintech Agenda : Chapeau Paper.” The International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank Group, September 19, 2018.
Berardi, Franco “Bifo.” The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. Los
Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012.
Bernards, Nick. “Tracing Mutations of Neoliberal Development Governance:
‘Fintech’, Failure and the Politics of Marketization.” Environment and
Planning A: Economy and Space 51, no. 7 (October 2019): 1442–59.
Chakravartty, Paula, and Denise Ferreira da Silva. “Accumulation,
Dispossession, and Debt: The Racial Logic of Global Capitalism—An
Introduction.” American Quarterly 64, no. 3 (2012): 361–385.
Dyer-Witheford, Nick. Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital
Vortex. London: Pluto, 2015.
Federici, Silvia. “Women, Money and Debt: Notes for a Feminist
Reappropriation Movement.” Australian Feminist Studies 33, no. 96 (April
3, 2018): 178–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/08164649.2018.1517249.
Gabor, Daniela, and Sally Brooks. “The Digital Revolution in Financial
Inclusion: International Development in the Fintech Era.” New Political
Economy 22, no. 4 (July 4, 2017): 423–36.
Gago, Verónica. “Financialization of Popular Life and the Extractive
Operations of Capital: A Perspective from Argentina.” South Atlantic
Quarterly 114, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 11–28.
Haiven, Max. “The Uses of Financial Literacy: Financialization, the
Radical Imagination, and the Unpayable Debts of Settler-Colonialism.”
Cultural Politics 13, no. 3 (2017): 348–69.
Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning &
Black Study. Wivenhoe, New York and Port Watson: Minor Compositions, 2013.
Kamuf, Peggy. “Accounterability,” Textual Practice 21, no. 2 (June
Kish, Zenia, and Justin Leroy. “Bonded Life: Technologies of Racial
Finance from Slave Insurance to Philanthrocapital.” Cultural Studies 29,
no. 5–6 (2015): 630–51.
Klein, Naomi. The Battle for Paradise. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2018.
Mader, Philip. “Card Crusaders, Cash Infidels and the Holy Grails of
Digital Financial Inclusion.” BEHEMOTH - A Journal on Civilisation 9,
no. 2 (December 2016): 59–81.
Martin, Randy. An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial
Logic of Risk Management. Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, 2007.
Manyika, James, Susan Lund, Marc Singer, Olivia White, and Chris Berry.
“Digital Finance for All: Powering Inclusive Growth in Emerging
Economies.” McKinsey Global Institute, September 2016. Pérez-Rosario,
Vanessa. “Unpayable Debt: Capital, Violence, and the New Global Economy
An Interview with Frances Negrón-Muntaner.” Small Axe (blog), June 18,
Roy, Ananya. “Subjects of Risk: Technologies of Gender in the Making of
Millennial Modernity.” Public Culture 24, no. 1 66 (April 16, 2012): 131–55.
Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate
Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 2019.
Wang, Jackie. Carceral Capitalism. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2018.
Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. New York: Public
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