This essay offers an investigation of US settler colonialism and military empire, a conjunction theorized as settler modernity, in the post–World War II era. It argues that settler modernity is an ensemble of relations significantly structured and continually reproduced through manifold regimes, relations, and forms of debt, and in particular through debt imperialism. Debt imperialism is a kind of temporal exception. It is a multiscalar process through which the United States imposes imperial power by rolling over its significant national debt indefinitely and not conforming to the homogeneous time of repayment that it imposes on others. Debt is not simply a financial economy but also crucially a broader social relation, production of subjectivity, and creation of a temporal exception through which US settler modernity functions and continually attemptsto re-create itself. Focusing on Asia and the Pacific as a significant site where we witness a militarized convergence of these arrangements, the essay asks: How is debt a necropolitical regime for those impoverished, gendered racial, and colonized nations and subjects whose promissory notes must be fully repaid with interest? How has US settler modernity been constituted by this usurious necropolitics of the promise, even as it continually confers upon itself the temporal exception of debt imperialism? This analysis reveals that what is at stake in US settler modernity is not only the elision of conquest and genocide as the conditions of possibility for military empire, economic power, and the avowed defense of liberal democracy but also the attempt to possess metapolitical authority.
1 June 2018
Research Article|June 01 2018
Settler Modernity, Debt Imperialism, and the Necropolitics of the Promise
Jodi Kim is associate professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War (2010) and coeditor of Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (2016).
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Social Text (2018) 36 (2 (135)): 41-61.