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Debt Working Group | Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico

Rocío Zambrana, University of Puerto Rico

April 26, 2023 · 5:00 pm6:30 pm · 216 Aaron Burr Hall

Humanities Council, Department of Anthropology

With the largest municipal debt in US history and a major hurricane that destroyed much of the archipelago’s infrastructure, Puerto Rico has emerged as a key site for the exploration of neoliberalism and disaster capitalism. In Colonial Debts Rocío Zambrana develops the concept of neoliberal coloniality in light of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Drawing on decolonial thought and praxis, Zambrana shows how debt functions as an apparatus of predation that transforms how neoliberalism operates. Debt functions as a form of coloniality, intensifying race, gender, and class hierarchies in ways that strengthen the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Zambrana also examines the transformation of protest in Puerto Rico. From La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción’s actions, long-standing land rescue/occupation in the territory, to the July 2019 protests that ousted former governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló, protests pursue variations of decolonial praxis that subvert the positions of power that debt installs. As Zambrana demonstrates, debt reinstalls the colonial condition and adapts the racial/gender order essential to it, thereby emerging as a key site for political-economic subversion and social rearticulation.

The Debt Working Group brings together faculty, graduate students, and staff who are interested in studying debt from an interdisciplinary perspective. The group addresses issues such as the history and legitimacy of sovereign debt; the (un)sustainability and fairness of consumer debt; the logics of colonial and ecological debts; the affective valences of debt as they appear in debates about reparations/repair; debt as a language of morality and as a narratological device; the plural temporalities and spaces of debt; and debt as a tool of governance and subjectivation.

For more information and readings, please contact organizers Nicolás Sánchez-Rodríguez (Society of Fellows, Spanish and Portuguese) at nico.sanchez@princeton.edu, JahAsia Jacobs (Anthropology) at jfjacobs@princeton.edu, or Alberto E. Morales (Program in Latin American Studies, Anthropology) at alberto.morales@princeton.edu.

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