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Banks, Currencies, and Imperial Power

Stephanie Graeter

27 April 2023, 12:30 pm

Pan African Capital?
Banks, Currencies, and Imperial Power

Much of the global south and the African continent in particular experienced the onset of neoliberalism as deep debts to North Atlantic-based international financial institutions and the loan conditionalities that came with them. Channeled through the IMF, the World Bank, CitiBank and others, the Washington consensus took key matters of macroeconomic policy out of the hands of African states. Political sovereignty—newly won in long independence struggles—was bifurcated from economic sovereignty, with devastating consequences. And yet, since 2008 these institutions have been in retreat on the continent, partially replaced by Pan African Banks. Putting ethnographic work with Africa-based finance professionals into dialogue with heterodox economic thinking on banks, currency sovereignty, and dollar supremacy, I argue that we must not only analyze the geographic shift in where banks are headquartered and who owns them, but also generate empirical and theoretical shifts in what a bank is, what it does, and to what effect, especially in terms of the relationship between currencies, social violence, and imperial and racial power.

Co-sponsored with the School of Anthropology

Hannah Appel

Hannah Appel teaches Anthropology, Global Studies, and International Development Studies at UCLA where she also works as the Associate Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Hannah is also co-founder and organizer with the Debt Collective, the nation’s first debtors’ union.