Rosalind C. Morris | Tuesday, March 2, 2021

February 17, 2021

The Simulacrum of "Sovereign" Debt: Giving, Giving in, and a Credit to our Name

Rosalind C. Morris
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
11:30 am - 1 pm


Join the Pembroke Center for a virtual lecture by Rosalind C. Morris, professor of anthropology at Columbia University, interrogating the nature of debt in a post-waged de-industrializing society. In this world, Morris says, "the ghosts of Samuel Beckett and Karl Marx are conjured into a seance with the ancestors and the men who scavenge for gold in South Africa's abandoned mines, to interrogate the nature of debt in a post-waged deindustrializing society. In this world, the question of creditability is paramount. It takes a form that reveals the function of the third, a function intrinsic to 'the gift' as Mauss conceived it. However, this function is inverted and traduced in post-wage capitalist contexts, where a secreting of mediation in the fetish of interest exposes the debtor to another and kind of obligation while obstructing his or her capacity to be a person among others.



Rosalind C. Morris’ work is addressed to the histories and social lives—including the deaths and afterlives—produced in the interstices of industrial and resource-based capitalism in the Global South. Those interests extend to the technological and media forms that attend or undergird these economies, and the forms of subjectivity produced in their midst. They also encompass the racialized and sexualized political logics and structures of desire accompanying these phenomena. Morris’ recent writings on these subjects are grounded in deep ethnographic research in Southern Africa, an engagement that now stretches over more than two decades; her early work was centered on mainland Southeast Asia, especially Thailand.

Across these areas, and with occasional essays and a film devoted to questions of American war-making, her work has taken a variety of forms: from scholarly monographs to critical essays. Some of her writings are specifically theoretical, influenced by classical anthropological theory, Marxism, deconstructionism and feminist psychoanalysis; others are more ethnographically descriptive.