Postcolonial capital: Global finance from the “periphery”

In 2015, a report from the International Monetary Fund called attention to a novel financial phenomenon: “There has been a rapid expansion of pan-African banks (PABs) in recent years, with […] a systemic presence in around 36 countries. Overall, the PABs are now much more important in Africa than the long-established European and American banks” (1). It is the contention of this panel that Africa is not alone in the Global South. Euro-American institutions are today playing increasingly marginal roles in Global South finance, where private and public actors alike are turning towards national, regional, and south-south finance to provide capital for investment projects across sectors.

We want to gather together scholars who are exploring this contemporary transformation in global finance. Although Africa is exemplary of this changing economic landscape, we aim for a broader conversation that re-centers contemporary economic practices in the postcolonial world. European and American scholars have largely understood these economies as exceptional cases to the putative norms of industrialized economies. They are often characterized as either “informal” and therefore outside the purview of modern state regulation, or they are “extractive” and framed as a continuation of long-held imperial inequalities.

We are looking for scholars who take a different approach. Rather than beginning with the presumption of difference, exception, or exploitation, we want to explore how the Global South is challenging old financial arrangements. We want to examine how–and if–familiar financial forms and techniques are being infused with new cultural and political values. We are especially interested in new challenges to Euro-American financial dominance that re-formulate the conventional wisdom on the “peripheral” postcolonial economy. And we are looking for ethnographic inquiries into how specific economic practices, tools, and techniques enact–or obstruct–such novel economic imaginaries.

We seek to foreground the practical labor of economizing in particular places and how such practices rely upon relatively mobile, portable, and modular techniques and forms. Focusing on specific economic techniques (e.g., credit ratings or market research) and forms (e.g., the corporation or central bank), we ask: how do relations of credit/debt, exchange, and ownership transcend the assumed particularity of a single location and challenge global economic norms? And how might our view of “global finance” shift with the postcolonial world at the center of the inquiry, rather than the so-called periphery?

Hannah Appel and Janet Roitman will be discussants for the panel, and we are looking forward to including more scholars in the conversation. If you would like to participate, please send along a 250 word abstract of your paper presentation by April 3, 2018 to James Christopher Mizes ( and Kevin P. Donovan (