In 2015 the British government finally finished paying off the Slavery Abolition Act loan. For 180 years it had serviced debt created by the massive public borrowing of 1835, which was used to compensate British slave owners for the loss of their “slave property” during emancipation. This article interrogates this 180-year-long debt legacy and argues for the need to recast our understanding of emancipation processes within the frame of racial capitalism. The article specifically considers the financial dimension of emancipation as constituting an apparatus of what is termed necrospeculation. The accounting procedures of emancipation in the British empire appropriated financial value not just from living enslaved bodies but also from dead and absent ones. The British state oversaw and directed an intergenerational regime that plundered wealth from enslaved black communities and their descendants to enrich the accounts of Britain’s racial capitalist imperial order. The study concludes with a reading of Maxwell Philip’s 1854 novel Emmanuel Appadocca as a reflection on the potentials of black redress and black critique from within the necrospeculative order of colonial postemancipation. The author argues that “postemancipation” is in fact not a past historical period but a critical designation of the social and relational terms of our present.
Necrospeculation: Postemancipation Finance and Black Redress
Kris Manjapra is associate professor of history at Tufts University and chair of the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora. He is the author of Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals across Empire (2014).
Kris Manjapra; Necrospeculation: Postemancipation Finance and Black Redress. Social Text 1 June 2019; 37 (2): 29–65. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7370979
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