University of Warwick, 26th May 2022.
Keynote Speaker: Dr Daniel Hartley (Durham University)
Capital comes into the world ‘dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt’, Marx observes in the first volume of Capital (1867), in his account of ‘so-called primitive accumulation’. Responding to Marx, Rosa Luxemburg’s Accumulation of Capital (1913) theorises the actuality of an ongoing primitive accumulation, ransacking the colonies to solve the problem of underconsumption in the core. Marxist feminists engaged in the housework debates of the 1970s began to conceive of women’s unpaid labour as a continuous form of expropriation. In recent years, responding to neoliberalism’s wave of privatisations, David Harvey, Peter Linebaugh, Massimo De Angelis, and Nancy Fraser have placed the question of an ongoing primitive accumulation (or ‘accumulation by dispossession’) on the agenda once more. Jason Moore’s work on the capitalist appropriation of ‘cheap nature’ underscores the ecological stakes of such dispossessions, while Brenna Bhandar and Robert Nichols have sharpened our understanding of how ‘racial regimes of ownership’ and logics of dispossession functioned, historically, in the settler colony.
This symposium proposes to explore what cultural analysis can contribute to this rich re-examination of the history and theory of dispossession. Where has capitalist expropriation found expression in novels, poems, plays, films, and other cultural forms? Where has it not? How have such representations (or absences) been inflected by class, race, gender, and sexuality? More broadly, how might attention to capital’s ‘blood and dirt’—its dispossessions and extractions, enclosures and plantations—challenge or complement schools of Marxist cultural criticism centred on abstraction, reification, and ideology? How do cultural texts themselves help us totheorise the connections between capitalist abstraction and what Michael Denning calls ‘wageless life’? Might a renewed focus on such concepts open up Marxist theory to a more thoroughgoing exchange with world-systems theory, feminism, postcolonial theory, the environmental humanities, or other theoretical paradigms?
Dispossession, enclosure, extraction, plantation: such are the keywords that this symposium proposes to read through cultural form. We invite proposals that conceive of our keywords in a broad way (as material histories, social logics, or imagined futures) and explore their relationship to capital and culture, conceived equally broadly. Papers need not follow any particular ‘approach’ or methodology and might consider thematic, formal, theoretical, sociological, or historical elements of cultural production. We welcome proposals relating to any time period or geographical area, and we encourage submissions from graduate students,early career researchers, and affiliated and independent scholars.
Papers may consider, amongst other topics: