Cultural Formation and Appropriation in Merchant Capitalism

William Crane


In May 2015, Dubai Parks and Resorts, known otherwise as Dubailand, announced a new attraction that would take its place among reconstructions of villages in rustic France and Polynesia, as well as a larger-scale park inspired by the Legoland parks of southern California and Florida. The new attraction, called Bollywood Parks, inspired by the Hindi-language national cinema of India based in Mumbai, features ‘Rustic Ravine’, where ‘the heart of rural India’ is ‘recreated in all its glory’, a lifelike recreation of a Mughal palace where a Bollywood-themed musical will be performed thrice weekly, as well as ‘Mumbai Chowk, your chance to enjoy Mumbai’s famous street food’.[1]

The construction of Bollywood Parks, along with the similarly-grotesque fellow attractions of Dubailand, is driven by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s ongoing quest to transform the massive oil revenues that have accrued to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and by extension other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into cultural and luxury attractions that will make the city, country and region ‘number one in the world’.[2] This includes Dubailand as well as a miniature reproduction of the globe in a series of small islands; the Burj al-Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world; nineteen others of the top 100 such ranked edifices; and the world’s first undersea luxury hotel.

Bollywood Parks answers a consumer need, however strange and artificially generated. That need comes not only from Indian capitalists with business in Dubai and other GCC cities, but of a growing and prosperous middle class hailing from South Asia in Dubai and the rest of the UAE. Indian and Pakistani bankers, managers and entrepreneurs cannot become Emirati citizens or even permanent residents, despite the fact they have lived there, in many cases, for their entire lives.[3] Nevertheless, they raise their children there, send them to English-language private schools, as they would in South Asia, and mix freely with Dubai’s rulers and their colleagues from elsewhere in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America. Bollywood is their culture, the movies they watch and the music they listen to, to the point that its playback songs are more common on the streets of the city than any kind of Western or Middle Eastern pop music.

There are other South Asian migrants in Dubai aside from a prosperous, upwardly-mobile middle class that is increasingly at home and solicited by the state’s rulers. They comprise the temporary, precarious underclass of migrant labourers who built Bollywood Parks, the whole of Dubailand, and the city’s numerous other attractions. Hundreds of them arrive in the city every day. They are attached to one employer, and risk deportation if they lose the job to which they are tied. Their working conditions, including heavy manual labour in fifty-degree heat and living ten to twelve to a room in barracks that approach the status of a concentration camp, have attracted the label, more and more common, of slavery.[4] These workers almost certainly know the songs, films and food on display in the park which they built better than most of its customers. But they have not been allowed to be within sight of them or the park since it opened.

Neither Bollywood Parks nor any of the other bizarre and atrocious thefts of culture, labour and lives that feature heavily in the Gulf, the foundation of a permanently marginalised working class supporting a rickety structure of subsidised citizens in the middle and fused royal families and finance-capital at the top,[5] have featured in the discussions of cultural appropriation which have taken place on college campuses, at art museums and in television studios in the English-speaking West. The reason seems to be that cultural appropriation is most frequently criticised and contested when white people appropriate the culture of the oppressed and thereby profit, as shown in numerous discussions of popular music, painting, food, fashion and other cultural commodities.[6]

However, this paper proposes that it is Bollywood Parks, and projects like it in capitalism’s distant past, that constitute a better subject of critique than the latest outrage of an online polemic, whether that is a food item, a piece of art, a song, a dance, or a language. To put the case baldly: appropriation of culture never happens without a corresponding appropriation of labour and human lives. This being the case, the tools of Marxist political economy will provide a deeper understanding of this process than the liberal legal/ethical or postcolonial authenticity discourse that drenches claims of cultural appropriation.

Materialist critique of cultural-appropriation discourse can make a valuable contribution to our understanding of culture and identity under capitalism. After all, early-modern racial, national, gender and class-identities – culture, in other words – emerged in relation to the discovery and colonisation of America and the East, the slave trade, enclosures, and industrialisation, the transition to capitalism which generations of Marxist scholars have spent their careers detailing and debating.

However, ever since the concept of cultural appropriation was taken into the mainstream near the beginning of the current decade, critics of its use have responded poorly to the central claims and political rationale of its proponents. From the right, the response is usually an attempt to reduce to absurdity all claims of cultural appropriation, hence dismissing the real concern with racism that these critiques articulate. More distressing is that leftist critiques carry the same lacuna: frequently, it is argued that since all culture involves borrowing and adaptation, the charge of cultural appropriation is impossible to sustain and hence should be ignored.[7] The weapon of Marxist criticism, on the other hand, should be able to discern the material basis of claims of cultural appropriation in the nexus of capitalist oppression, and to reconstruct its foundations from an historical and materialist point of view.

The paper proceeds in four main sections. In the first section, I define the concept of cultural appropriation as it emerged from Indigenous Studies in North America around the turn of the current century, drawing out and elaborating on what I consider the historical limitations of the concept through a detailed case-study of indigenous music. I show how the essentialist conception of culture that exists within the dominant legal–ethical paradigm can be overcome with an alternative understanding of ‘culture as [the] ordinary’,[8] relying especially for this conception on the work of Raymond Williams. In the second, I follow this by outlining a concept that I believe should replace cultural appropriation as better founded in a historical and class-analysis: cosmopolitanism, of capital and of labour. I trace this concept from several incomplete formulations in the early work of Marx and Engels to the more rounded concepts of dominant and subordinate cultures in Williams’s work, as well as in Stuart Hall’s notes on popular culture.

I return to the early days of capitalism as a global system to put the concept of cosmopolitan culture into operation against the cultural-appropriation framework. I elaborate on some early forms of what might be considered cultural appropriation, particularly the spice trade originating in the Dutch East Indies. Not only were these experiences crucial to the emergence of a world capitalist system,[9] they show the genocide, slavery, dispossession and other forms of violence against subject populations upon which depends the theft of culture and lives that is the concern of critiques of cultural appropriation.

However, this early-modern system of mercantile capitalism, as analysed foremost by Jairus Banaji,[10] was also a crucible of identity and cultural formation. I consider this in the final main section. The slave trade is a case in point: slave ships gave captives a national identity as Igbo, formed in suffering and struggle within the triangular trade. Correspondingly, sailors in the slave trade and elsewhere in the nooks of mercantile capitalism adopted, in response to their position, a class-identity as workers in relation to those who oppressed them.[11]

I root my critique of cultural appropriation in the era of mercantile capitalism rather than another place and time following the more popular advocates of the concept in the past several years. Cultural appropriation, it is claimed, was foundational to the global colonial order that continues to appropriate culture today.[12] By covering this period, I show that (1) appropriation of culture is fundamentally the capitalist appropriation of human labour and lives, which is the more secure ground for critique, and (2) that indigenous and oppressed cultures as identifiable and discrete phenomena have their origins in the encounter of American, African and Asian societies with European capitalist colonialism. This concretises my contention that the notion of cultural appropriation frequently carries essentialist and ahistorical assumptions.

I return in the conclusion to consider what the early-modern experience of dispossession and resistance means to fleshing-out cultural appropriation as appropriation of labour and lives, connecting it to the vignette of Dubai I related at the beginning of this introduction. Finally, I suggest several political conclusions from the critique of cultural appropriation as well as the consequences of adopting a cosmopolitan analysis founded in Marxism.

Before proceeding I should note the scope and limitations of the current intervention. My concern here is to intervene in the popular conversations about cultural property that have come to dominate on the left, especially in the English-speaking West. Hence, I will be drawing extensively on materials more popular than those which are frequently used in an academic article, blog-posts especially. This unfortunately has the effect of pushing out of consideration some of the more sophisticated versions of the idea of cultural appropriation or similar ideas that exist in some of the relevant literature.[13] While I will be drawing on the academic literature on cultural appropriation, I have been forced to limit myself to those arguments which I judged to prefigure or inspire similar ideas in the current political conversations.[14]


Defining Cultural Appropriation

The concept of cultural appropriation, which was popularised in discussions in the US media around the start of the current decade, has been generalised far beyond its original purpose. Applied to everything from Western practices of yoga, to Black American adoption of African dress, to the use of designs in dressmaking that are foreign to the artist, this generalisation has taken its toll on the concept’s specificity. As one critic wrote, today it is all but impossible to tell what does and what does not fall under usage of the term.[15]

Indeed, there is ‘no coherent theory of cultural appropriation that can include all or most of the times these claims are made that does not necessarily indict the people making the charge’.[16] However, while a theory of cultural appropriation does not exist, it would be disingenuous to charge that no consistentconcept of it exists.

The origins of the concept of cultural appropriation lie in the 1990s, in the field of Indigenous Studies.[17] Most early discussions of cultural appropriation had to do with demands by First Nations in Canada for the restitution of cultural artefacts and knowledge they considered their property that had earlier been taken by the Canadian state and settler-institutions. These included (but were not limited to) archaeological discoveries, museum pieces, human remains, religious beliefs, traditional medicine, visual art such as paintings and pottery, and recordings of songs and music. Several groups of indigenous and non-indigenous activists and academics in Canada began to develop a legal–ethical framework for the understanding of cultural property, what constituted its appropriation, and the restitution of property to indigenous nations.[18] This was later taken up by academics in the other anglophone settler-colonies, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

James O. Young and Conor G. Brunk, in a collection on the ethics of cultural appropriation, refer to culture in terms of Wittgenstein’s concept of a family resemblance. A game is one analogy: just as games may include pieces, teams, boards, fields, and so on, a culture is made up of a sufficient number of common cultural traits.[19] From this point of view, cultural property can be defined as artefacts or ideas (but again, not limited to these two) produced by members of a certain culture, which can be said to be treated as the common property or inheritance of all its members. Appropriation of cultural property thus entails the taking of property by members of another culture, who then put it to use.[20]

This is of indeterminate character on its own. Sally Engle Merry writes that it may include violence by members of a dominant culture as well as a practice of resistance by members of an oppressed culture.[21] An example of cultural appropriation as resistance would be her discussion of the legal system adopted by the Hawaiian kingdom in the early nineteenth century: by adopting Christianity as well as Anglo-American law, Hawaiians sought to defend their sovereignty in a world in which the Western powers threatening Hawaii regarded their own norms as definitional to the concept.

Young and Brunk refer to three kinds of acts under which appropriation of culture becomes morally questionable. All three are grounded in the relationship of a dominant culture to an oppressed one. They are: (1) acts that violate the property rights of a culture, (2) acts that attack the identity and viability of a culture or otherwise contribute to undermining them, and (3) acts that cause ‘profound offence’ to members of the affected culture by not respecting their norms.[22] Throughout this paper, when I refer to cultural appropriation, it will be in these negative senses, rather than what has been called ‘positive appropriation’ or ‘appropriation in reverse’.

The concept of cultural appropriation, in the abstract, is open to critique on two major grounds. The first is its notion of culture. As Merry argues, the implicit definition of culture in most of the discussions of appropriation is related to the nineteenth-century German idea of Kultur, through which the pre-unification bourgeoisie emphasised its difference, claiming a distinctive peoplehood through its distinctive habits and customs.[23] Raymond Williams relates Kultur to distinctive civilisation, most frequently at this stage European civilisation, a definition which was afterwards associated with the ‘culture’ in English.[24] The use of cultures in the plural can be traced to the eighteenth-century philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder. In his attacks on the idea of a superior European culture as ‘a blatant insult to the majesty of Nature’,[25] Herder set a precedent followed by anthropologists in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries examining the distinctive cultures of the Iroquois, the Hawaiians, Igbo and other peoples coming under Western domination as a discursive form of resistance to the mission civilisatrice of the colonial powers from which they hailed.[26]

The revival of this essentialist conception of culture in the academy and among activists is one part of a tendency noted by Chris Harman nearly three decades ago among liberal and left-intellectuals, often from oppressed groups, to place renewed value on the authenticity of separate cultures: ‘everyone must value their own culture, and even go so far as to show concern about the “bastardisation of cultures”’.[27] Should we attempt to overcome the essentialism at work in many cultural-appropriation arguments through an historical-materialist analysis, the definition of culture is where we must start. In this task, the work of Raymond Williams should be regarded as central.

In one early article, Williams set the tone for his and other Marxists’ explorations into the idea of culture. At this stage, he used the word in two senses. The first was the notion of culture as the ordinary, ‘a whole way of life’, the shape, purposes and meanings of a human society and the ‘common meanings, the product of a whole people, and offered individual meanings, the product of man’s whole committed personal and social experience’.[28] Williams follows this first expansive definition with a second usage of culture referring specifically to ‘the arts and learning – the special processes of discovery and creative effort’ through which the institutions of society express their culture, in the first sense. He later supplemented these two definitions of culture with a third, which has been referred to above. Williams sums up his tripartite definition of culture as follows:

(i) the independent and abstract noun which describes a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development, from [the eighteenth century]; (ii) the independent noun, whether used generally or specifically, which indicates a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period, a group, or humanity in general … (iii) the independent and abstract noun which describes the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity.[29]

The definition of culture implied in most appropriation-discourse is related most closely to Williams’s second definition. However, Williams’s idea of culture takes these definitions not as alternatives which may be applied or discarded at will, but as simultaneously valid, in productive tension and contradiction. We might put the contradiction like this: culture is (1) the social totality of a human society; (2) a specific name for its intellectual production, particularly of the creative kind; and (3) the dialectical interaction of all parts of (1) with (2) and with each other.

It is the reified idea of culture that proceeds from exclusive focus on the sense of culture as discrete civilisations that is at issue. Discrete cultures do not operate alongside one another, with one taking over elements of another when placed in a dominant relation. As Stuart Hall puts it, ‘there are no wholly separate “cultures” paradigmatically attached, in a relation of historical fixity, to specific “whole” classes’ – nor, we might add, to specific whole peoples.[30]

Within the framework of Marxist cultural theory, the proper avenue of investigation lies in the historical relationship between what Williams calls ‘dominant, residual and emergent’ cultures.[31] Though Williams, Hall and others framed this approach largely in terms of the relationship between the cultures of contending feudal, bourgeois and proletarian class-forces, it can be fruitfully applied to cultural relationships characterised by national oppression as well as class exploitation.

Before proceeding to the concrete analysis, one further problem in many formulations of cultural appropriation should be noted: the idea of cultural property. For Williams, the idea of individuals having ownership rights over culture in whatever sense would be at best a non-sequitur. In fact, the idea hails straight from the liberal school of property rights. Elizabeth Coleman, Rosemary Coombe and Fiona MacArailt, in their discussion of cultural rights to recordings of First Nations songs, ground their case for restitution of cultural property in the work of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. Following Nozick, ‘the sale of objects and recordings of songs would be illegitimate because the legitimate transfer of rights had been precluded’, in general by the colonisation of First Nations, in particular by the state-enacted ban on the ceremonies in which these songs were performed.[32] The case that Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt focus on, the songs of First Nations on the coast of British Columbia, forms a convenient jumping-off point to contrast the absolutist moralism of cultural-appropriation discourse with the more sensitive tools of Marxist cultural analysis.

In the 1890s, the Canadian state banned the potlatch ceremonies of, among others, the Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-Chah-Nulth and Haida nations of British Columbia. Potlatch was observed on major status-defining events such as marriages, the naming of children, and transfers of rights and privileges. Song was an integral part of the potlatch, which ‘constituted … the transfer and possession of those rights which define the central bonds of the society’, for instance, land-ownership.[33] Hence the songs of these nations were more than performance or adornment of a certain ceremony: they were law.[34]

The banning of potlatch ceremonies lasted nearly a century. Its songs might have vanished entirely if the anthropologist Ida Halpern had not engaged with chiefs and other traditional song performers of various tribes in the 1950s, convincing them to make recordings of the songs rather than let them die out.[35] These recordings were preserved in museums, eventually taught in primary schools and broadcast on public television.

Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt contend that in recording the songs of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other nations, Halpern engaged in cultural appropriation. She did this by identifying the songs she recorded as culture, in the Western sense, which merited preservation. ‘Cultural appropriation may occur simply through the imposition of dominant aesthetic categories and … perfectly acceptable, indeed laudable activities in one era, may cause harms … that we must ethically acknowledge in another.’[36] Accordingly, focussing on Halpern’s benign intentions when she recorded the music ‘obscures a more crucial point about the systematic injustice and cultural losses that indigenous people have suffered … [indigenous songs] cannot be “owned” under Western legal systems’.[37]

 Coleman, Coombe, and MacArailt situate their claim about cultural appropriation in the moment of epistemic violence between the settler-culture represented by Halpern and the indigenous culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw performers whose songs she recorded. The Canadian state’s move to eradicate the independent culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw voided the conditions under which cultural exchange could have freely and equitably been practised. Halpern’s recording these songs is thus cultural appropriation in each of the three senses to which Young and Brunk refer: (1) they were stolen; (2) by engaging with the performers under oppressive conditions, she ‘contributed to the disenfranchisement that the peoples of the Northwest coast suffered at the hands of the modern state’; and (3) by situating the recordings in museums and broadcasts, she caused profound offence to the indigenous communities by transferring them out of their proper context into Western culture.[38] By recording the potlatch songs of the Kwakwaka’wakw, Halpern, to use a contemporary example, can be compared to the musician who, in sampling indigenous songs and rhythms in her work, misrepresents their musical achievements and profits thereby.[39]

From the standpoint of Marxist cultural criticism, the fundamental limitation of this type of cultural-appropriation discourse is its reified notion of discrete cultures, and a consequential anti-historical bias. Halpern’s recordings transferred songs from several (eternally oppressed) indigenous cultures to her own (eternally dominant) settler-culture. Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt see the songs as stolen artefacts, museum pieces or recordings for settler-children to marvel at. However, our understanding from Williams is that ‘no dominant culture ever in reality includes or exhausts all human practice’, energy or intention.[40] He goes on: ‘in authentic historical analysis it is necessary at every point to recognise the complex interrelations between movements and tendencies both within and beyond a specific and effective dominance’ as well as to ‘examine how these relate to the whole cultural process rather than to the selected and abstracted dominant system’.[41]

The anti-historical bias engrained in cultural-appropriation discourse thus tends to exclude an assessment of the full development of indigenous cultural artefacts such as song recordings. As Hall notes, no cultural form (for example, a recording of a song) carries inscribed within itself a certain position in culture:

The meaning of a cultural symbol is given in part by the social field into which it is incorporated, the practices with which it articulates and is made to resonate. What matters is not the intrinsic or historically fixed objects of culture, but the state of play in cultural relations: to put it bluntly … the class struggle in and over culture.[42]

We need no special acts of imagination to see that the cultural struggle in indigenous Canada has transformed the meaning and resonance of the recordings made by Halpern in the 1950s. Less than three decades after they were made, they became immensely valuable to the cultural restitution movement that emerged among Kwakwaka’wakw and other nations of British Columbia. Using them, they reconstructed the potlach ceremony and re-established lines of inheritance for property, historical rights and privileges, thus accelerating the process of decolonisation.[43] Though settler-institutions may have intended the Kwakwaka’wakw songs to be ‘archaic’ cultural forms entombed in a museum, as Williams writes, this never provided a full accounting of the ‘spheres of practice and meaning … the dominant culture [was] unable in any real terms to recognise’.[44]

This section has shown three central defects in the mainstream discourse of cultural appropriation. Two emerge from the concept itself: first, the essentialist conception of cultures as discrete and integral wholes, carried over from German Enlightenment discourse; and second, the idea of cultural property hailing from libertarian ethics drawn from capitalist property-relations. When the concept is put to work historically, we see a third defect emerging: the antihistorical prejudice determined by the paradigm of cultural appropriation means that its practitioners fail to see the full development of a cultural form within the matrix of human society, a process that, as Stuart Hall writes, must be looked at in terms of the social relations which constantly structure the cultural field into dominant and subordinate elements.[45] Both Hall’s and Williams’s work has been helpful thus far in criticising the limitations of appropriation discourse; I shall rely on them also to develop the concepts which can serve as an alternative.


Inter/national Cultures of Capital and Labour[46]                                    

Going forward with a critique of cultural-appropriation discourse requires the critic to have at least the beginnings of an alternative. Fortunately, we can find one in the Marxist idea of cultural cosmopolitanism. This emerges from latent comments in Marx and Engels to the more substantive writings of Williams and Hall on working-class and ‘popular’ culture. Here, I move backwards in time from Williams on capitalist and proletarian national cultures to Marx and Engels’s early comments related to capitalist and working-class international culture. Cosmopolitanism, in the Marxist sense, is a term that historicises cultural formation and borrowing in a way that the moralist hammer of terms like ‘appropriation’ cannot.

Williams appropriated the idea of culture as ‘a whole way of life’, discussed above, from T.S. Eliot’s discussion of the definition of culture. Whereas Eliot argued from a conservative perspective that culture could be ‘high’ or ‘low’, and that only an elite could fully engage with high culture in order to prevent social disintegration,[47] Williams approached the problem from the opposite direction: while agreeing with Eliot that there were separate bourgeois and working-class cultures in England, he argued that the latter was closer to the definition of culture as ‘a whole way of life’, and thus a more realistic basis for a future English society.

Williams situated his division of working-class as compared to bourgeois English culture in his own experience moving from a working-class Welsh village to the teashops and cathedrals of elite Cambridge as a youth.[48] When at Cambridge he reports encountering culture as ‘trivial differences of behaviour’ from the people in the teashops, ‘the outward and emphatically visible sign of a special kind of people, cultivated people’.[49] This was ‘an English bourgeois culture, with its powerful educational, literary and social institutions, in close contact with the actual centres of power’, but it was not culture ‘in any sense that I knew’.[50]Real culture was that ‘great part of the English way of life, and of its arts and learning [which] is not bourgeois in any discoverable sense’. Inthis culture, Williams included ‘institutions, and common meanings’ which the bourgeoisie could not claim sole ownership over, ‘art and learning … produced by many kinds of men, including many who hated the very class and system which now take pride in consuming it’, and ‘a distinct working-class way of life’ that emphasised ‘neighbourhood, mutual obligation and common betterment, as expressed in the great working-class political and industrial institutions’.[51]

Working-class culture, for Williams, is ultimately defined by the politics of class struggle. Its emergence, as in the case of the nineteenth-century popular press, ‘is always likely to be uneven and is certain to be incomplete’ while the class it emerges from, the proletariat, is still in a subordinate position. The incorporation of the popular press into capitalist society shows the limits of working-class culture in its period of emergence; however, this incorporation is always selective, thus excluding the full range of human practice, like what it tries to incorporate, always incomplete.[52]

Williams’s writings on working-class culture are complementary to a set of early comments by Marx and Engels focusing on capitalist versus working-class culture on the international scale. It is well known that they analysed, and to some extent advocated, capitalist cosmopolitanism, from the point in the Communist Manifesto where they describe how

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country … In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.[53]

This paean to the bourgeoisie and to capitalism’s power to overcome its narrow-minded national predecessors and rivals, however, is matched by another stream in Marx’s and Engels’s writings that starts even earlier than the Manifesto.[54] From the beginnings of their radicalisation in the early 1840s, Marx and Engels criticise harshly and repeatedly the hypocrisy of bourgeois cosmopolitanism most notably associated with Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Immanuel Kant’sTowards Perpetual Peace. Engels’s early sketch ‘Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy’, for instance, accuses the bourgeois advocates of a cosmopolitanism based on world-trade of establishing the ‘monopoly of property’, of ‘civilising the ends of the earth’ merely to ‘win new terrain for vile avarice’, and of perverting the cry of fraternity from the Great French Revolution into a ‘fraternity of thieves’.[55]

Marx and Engels also offered the first analysis of a contrasting cosmopolitanism, what I refer to as cosmopolitanism of labour. In his critique of Friedrich List’s work that advocated strong state-protection for the economic development of Germany, Marx notes, ‘The nationality of the worker is neither French, nor English, nor German, it is labour, free slavery, self-huckstering … His native air is neither French, nor English, nor German, it is factory air.’[56] Or, again, in the Manifesto:

The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got … National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.[57]

From Williams, we get the idea of contending bourgeois and proletarian cultures on the national scale; from Marx and Engels, the same dynamic on the international scale. I propose to call this dynamic, following Gilbert Achcar, cosmopolitanism,[58] phrasing this, following Williams, in terms of the cosmopolitanism of capital and the cosmopolitanism of labour.[59]

Williams puts proletarian and capitalist cultures noted by Marx and Engels into a more dialectical framework as the cultures of contending classes determined by relations of dominance and emergence. The notion of popular culture in Stuart Hall’s work elaborates and refines this concept. Hall defines a proper avenue for the study of popular culture:

… [it] looks in any particular period, at those forms and activities which have their roots in the social and material conditions of the popular classes; which have been embedded in popular traditions and practices … But it goes on to insist that what is essential to the definition of popular culture is the relations which define ‘popular culture’ in a continuing tension (relationship, influence and antagonism) to the dominant culture.[60]

Particularly useful in this definition is Hall’s insistence that popular culture, pace the assumptions of many radical historians of the eighteenth century, is ‘never … outside the larger field of social forces and cultural relations’.[61] Putting these terms to work in history is the task of the following sections.

Marx and Engels’s notions of international cosmopolitan cultures of capital and labour are synonymous, mutatis mutandis, with Williams’s concept of contending bourgeois and proletarian cultures, refined by Hall into the class struggle between elite culture and popular culture. The dialectical contention of capitalist and labour cosmopolitanisms is the main event: in the very earliest era of capitalism, the appropriation and theft that constitutes capitalist cosmopolitanism was contested from below; conversely, the formation of the contesting proletarian inter/nationalism was conditioned and limited by the relations of exploitation and domination imposed on it.


The Colonisation of Spice

Having criticised the concept of cultural appropriation, and having found imperfect terms to replace this kind of critique in the idea of contesting capitalist and labour cosmopolitanisms, we can put these concepts to work to find which is ultimately the more useful. In the following two sections, I examine the cultural history of early capitalism: in this section, from above, in the spice trade dominated by the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (the Dutch United East India Company, VOC) and in the next section, from below, in the culture of slaves and sailors recruited by companies like the VOC.

One widely-ridiculed argument about cultural appropriation appeared in late 2015 on the popular activist and lifestyle blog Black Girl Dangerous.[62] Centring on the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL), a seasonal coffee drink marketed most prominently by Starbucks, and its perception of it as a ‘white people food’, the author called attention to the ‘denial of the complexities of the role of colonialism, slavery, and genocide in the spice trade’, particularly the early-modern spice monopolies of the Portuguese, Dutch and British empires, and the pre-Columbian cultivation of pumpkins which only came to Europe, and Euro-Americans, because of colonial violence.

The supposed solution to the colonisation of pumpkins and their spices was a raft of measures familiar on liberal-arts college campuses: ‘Get it trending: #decolonizepumpkinspice. [Expletive] Starbucks and make your PSL at home. Get your mother’s recipes for cinnamon curries and talk to your parents about their history’.[63] The limits of such actions to actually repair, much less overthrow, the historical violence of colonialism is, I believe, both cause and symptom of the lack of understanding of those same historical processes. Therefore, this section takes an excursion through the early-modern spice trade to show that it was central to the emergence of capitalism, a system of appropriation of not only culture, but of labour and lives.

While mercantile capitalists certainly existed before the modern era, and possibly as far back as ancient Rome,[64] commercial capitals (in both the imperial and business sense) such as Venice, Genoa and the other Italian city-states of the medieval era were condemned to fleeting and unsustainable periods of growth followed by decay: on the one hand, relying upon configurations of power in the Iberian states, they had no ability to stage a revolutionary challenge to high military feudalism, while on the other hand, their capitalist reproduction itself relied on feudal relations of production in the Italian countryside and international commerce.[65]

It was only the sixteenth-century Dutch Republic, in the wake of its successful bourgeois revolution and driven by international competition with its former Habsburg masters, which managed to escape this trap. Pepijn Brandon argues that the early seventeenth century saw the Republic overcome an economic crisis traced to labour shortages because of the enduring stability of peasant land ownership in the process of land reclamation.[66] Agriculture was transformed along capitalist lines, peasants migrated into the cities, and higher wages accruing to an emerging proletariat in the textile industries provided the basis for a home market.[67] As Anievas and Nişancıoğlu show, it was colonialism in the form of the VOC which provided the way out: ‘By incorporating labour-power on a global scale, Dutch capitalism acquired a power of expansion that it did not hitherto possess’.[68]

The VOC, in contrast to the earlier Portuguese Estado da India, took on an increasingly interventionist role in the economy of the Indian Ocean littoral, beginning by establishing monopolies on the production of nutmeg, mace and cloves in the Indonesian archipelago. In the Middle Moluccas, where the VOC sought a monopoly of cloves, the Dutch colonists tightened the screw on an already deeply exploited peasantry by adopting the indigenous tradition ofhongi expeditions to eliminate smugglers and destroy clove production outside areas they could not hold.[69] In the Banda Islands, Dutch attempts to gain control of relatively decentralised and autonomous nutmeg and mace production against repeated guerrilla struggles led the VOC into a genocidal conflict which eliminated all but a few hundred of the 15,000 Banda Islanders. In their place, the Dutch established plantations based on slave labour drawn from peripheral hunter-gatherer societies.[70] To cement their monopoly over the spice trade, the VOC turned to the production of textiles, which were the primary medium of exchange in the area. They established factories on the Coromandel coast of southeast India in 1606 and in Gujarat in 1618, integrating production on a capitalist basis and subordinating rural artisans to production for the international market.[71]

‘Super-profits’ from slaves, debt peons and wage workers in a scattered colonial economic network producing spices along with textiles sustained the Dutch economy and allowed it to overcome the limits of a national economy’s labour supply. Rather than capitalism tending towards colonialism, Dutch colonialism ‘explains the emergence of capitalism as a mode of production’.[72] Or, in Banaji’s terms, they created the basis for the ‘permanent and expanding circulation of capital’.[73]

It was, therefore, the colonisation of spice that provided the basis for the emergence of international capitalism. Yet this massive act of ‘cultural appropriation’ that has been noted by the activist calling on us to ‘decolonise pumpkin spice’[74] was a brutal appropriation of labour and lives as well. The merchants invested in VOC ventures cared nothing about the appropriation of culture that they set in motion, perhaps less than executives of Starbucks care today about the foundational violence of colonialism that their PSL product is predicated on. Then as now, their motive was profit. An historical understanding of the Dutch conquest of the so-called Spice Islands, situated within a Marxist account of the transition to capitalism, provides a better foundation to understanding cultural domination in the sense meant by Hall than the ethno-cultural absolutes of cultural-appropriation discourse. The final section of this article takes up the challenge Williams and Hall set for students of popular and working-class culture: going beyond the moment of colonial violence and relationships of dominance to find the ‘spheres and practices of meaning’ existing within the field of social and cultural relations but beyond the understanding of the dominant culture.[75]


Identity-formation in Mercantile Capitalism

Appropriation of culture on a massive scale with the emergence of mercantile capitalism across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the seventeenth century could not have happened without a massive and bloody appropriation of labour and human lives. But in the form of the early sailing proletariat, this system also generated a possible set of gravediggers. These were the sailors, slaves, runaways, convicts, debtors, pirates, radicals and prisoners whose lives have been detailed most notably by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker.[76]

The source of modern identities and cultures of resistance can be found among them. On the slave ships, captive Africans from the Bight of Biafra came, for the first time, to recognise themselves as Igbo, a national identity in formation. It was on the slave plantations of the New World, once they were sold off the ships, that would set in motion another process of ethnogenesis: that of the African-American.[77] Sailors, white, Black, Red, people of innumerable backgrounds, were at the same time undergoing a related process, which would form them into a social class: the first modern proletariat. Nationalism and internationalism formed together in struggle and solidarity.[78]

The factories that the Dutch and English colonists acquired and integrated in India were eventually matched by seaborne factories: the ship, especially the slave ship. Rediker notes that the slave ship was ‘a factory and a prison, and in this combination lay its genius and horror’.[79] ‘Factory’ is used here in two senses. Its original meaning derived from ‘factor’, a synonym for merchant, hence meaning the fortresses, trading stations, and ports that sprung up from West Africa to the East Indies, and the ships going in between them and back and forth to Europe and the Americas. The slave ship was also a factory in the industrial sense, where sailors, under direction of the captains and officers representing the mercantile ruling class, produced the commodity of the slave to be sold in American plantation societies.[80]

Some crucial work involved getting the slaves ready for market: maintaining their health as much as possible through exercise and treatment, and once the ship was close to port, tending to the captives’ appearance by removing grey hair, shining their skin with oil, and clipping their nails. An even larger burden on the sailors, however, was socialisation of the captives, and they engaged in complex tasks to render them docile and immune to the shipboard insurrections that frequently took place. One part of this involved dividing up the captives by origin, at this stage mainly a linguistic and regional category. Some groups, like the Fante and Ibibio, were considered dangerous and always to be chained when below decks, while the Chamba and Angola were not likely to rise, and hence did not need chains.[81]

On the ships, captives of widely disparate origin were bound together. Ethnogenesis was the result: some of this work was done by the European merchants, officers and sailors who sorted between captives of different origins, and the rest was done by the captives themselves. Olaudah Equiano, for example, found out once on the ship that he was Igbo. This word had never been a mark of self-identification, but a disparaging term for ‘the other people, down in the bush’.[82] On the ship, cultural commonalities, especially language, became crucial for cooperation and community. The Igbo, like many other West African ethnicities, emerged in relation to the slave trade.[83] This historical origin of discrete and identifiable national cultures directly contests cultural-appropriation discourse.

What happened in Africa and at the beginning of the voyage corresponded to another process of cultural and identity-formation happening at the end of the voyage and in America. Here the process was one that brought together people from entirely different lands: they became African-American:

In the shadow of death, the millions who made the great Atlantic passage in a slave ship forged new forms of life – new language, new means of expression, new resistance, and a new sense of community. Herein lay the maritime origins of cultures that were at once African-American and Pan-African, creative and hence indestructible.[84]

Ethnicity was formed aboard the slave ships, but ships of every kind and the ports that harboured them in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas also saw the earliest formation of the modern proletariat. These were the sailors, drawn from all over and described repeatedly in the parlance of the day as ‘the outcasts of all the nations of the earth’.[85] In VOC-sponsored voyages, for instance, Dutch seamen were a rarity, with the recruiting pool covering nearly all western Europe and beyond to Asia.[86]

Sailors were impelled towards resistance. ‘Strike’, for instance, is a term that comes from their early combativity – striking the sails was the first act of militant sailors withdrawing their labour-power.[87] As Linebaugh and Rediker argue, they came to identify with each other despite widely different origins. The African or Native American was every bit a salt as the European. The first working class in-itself, in other words, quickly found its voice and became a class for-itself. The use of violence and terror to break up marine conspiracies such as the New York case of 1741, and the separation of the sailing proletariat into different races was not a once-and-for-all accomplishment, but a process that had to be continually renewed and reinforced.[88]

They were enabled in this resistance by the development of a common identity and culture. This was, quite literally, a common language, the sailor’s pidgin, that would be mutually understood by populations everywhere from Philadelphia to London to Calcutta and all points in between:

Linguists describe pidgin as a ‘go-between’ language, the product of a ‘multiple-language situation,’ characterised by radical simplification. It was a dialect whose expressive power arose less from its lexical range than from the musical qualities of stress and pitch. Some African contributions to maritime and thence standard English include caboodle, ‘kick the bucket’ and ‘Davy Jones’ locker’ … Pidgin became an instrument, like the drum or the fiddle, of communication among the oppressed: scorned and not easily understood by polite society, it nonetheless ran as a strong, resilient, creative and inspirational current among seaport proletarians almost everywhere.[89]

A tongue that blended together the grammar of English with the lexicon of a variety of African, South Asian, and Native American languages, pidgin was the first and basic tool, a poetic one as much as anything else, of the early marine proletariat. It was, moreover, a cultural tool which, ‘from its own limited character, or … profound deformation’, the dominating culture of merchant capitalism was quite literally ‘unable to recognise’ or understand.[90]

The emergence of pidgin as a cultural tool of resistance for the oppressed, in this case the sailor outcasts of all nations, shows a crucial aspect of cultural formation often elided by cultural-appropriation discourse. Not only did the oppressed have a culture with which they contested the oppression and exploitation of early mercantile capitalism; the historical emergence of this culture never featured the rigid lines of demarcation between cultures favoured by the harshest critics of cultural appropriation.

The previous section took claims of cultural appropriation at face value, showing through an account of the early spice trade that the concept does have some purchase insofar as it turns the microscope on to the ways in which capital commodifies culture, the starting-point of capitalist cosmopolitanism. This section has expanded the argument beyond these terms to show that culture in the era of merchant capitalism, along with being a place where dynamics of oppression and exploitation are played out, was also a central site of contestation and struggle by the exploited and oppressed. The cultural cosmopolitanism of capital came into being alongside the cosmopolitanism of labour as opposites in a field of elite–popular cultural contestation ultimately conditioned by the class struggle.



This paper has taken seriously the charge of cultural appropriation and the politics imbedded in it. There is, in fact, something quite specific about early capitalism which lends popular legitimacy to the concept, for instance, the spice and textile trade established in the Dutch East Indies which proved so foundational to capitalist colonialism.[91] But cultural appropriation, framed in this way, handles too little to be taken seriously as an analytical tool. The appropriation of culture, in the form of spices from the East, appropriated labour and lives in a massive way as well. It could not do without this, as culture is a product of human labour. The appropriation of labour, and not culture, was the point – it was only in this manner that the VOC made a profit, and that Dutch capitalism overcame its early crisis of labour shortage.[92]

Cultural appropriation as a concept can handle very little, but is asked to handle very much.[93] Critics of the notion have charged that all culture is founded on borrowing or appropriation.[94] We saw, in the history of the early marine proletariat as described by Linebaugh and Rediker, that cultural formation happened under the impact of colonialism and the triangular trade. This included the formation of ethnic and racial identities, as well as class ones.[95] Desires to ‘return to the source’ frequently run into this problem: that specific African, or Asian, or Native American cultures cannot be understood in isolation from their respective encounters with European colonialism and capitalism.[96] An early working-class culture, exemplified in the sailors’ pidgin language, blended together elements from Europe, and the colonised worlds of the Indies and Americas into a ‘native air’ that was ‘neither French, nor English, nor German’, as Marx wrote, but the salty air of the Atlantic and oppressive heat below decks.[97]

Neoliberal capitalism, creating a system of mass labour migration and ‘global apartheid’,[98] has also accelerated the processes which formed culture in the crucible of oppression and resistance. For example, in the Gulf states, there has been a vast class formation of migrants from different cultures in South and Southeast Asia as they work on the construction sites, live in the barracks, send money back home, and occasionally resist and strike.[99]

The concept of cultural appropriation is poorly suited to describing what is happening there. The construction of Bollywood Parks in Dubai appropriated the culture of India, but also the labour and lives of immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and further afield. Rather than the implied argument of #decolonizePSL or of Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt on potlatch songs, which assumes a clash between undifferentiated coloniser and colonised peoples in a history forever marked by this foundational violence, the colonisation of spice by the VOC and contemporary cultural atrocities such as Dubailand are better understood in terms of the power and class dynamics of a given historical situation. The historical violence of appropriation is one moment in the history of a cultural sign which is continually reshaped by the struggle between dominant and emergent cultures. That moment must be understood in the web of world history rather than taken outside it.[100]

The limitations of cultural-appropriation arguments can be overcome with historicising, Marxist analysis. This paper has attempted to set up some signs at the beginning of this road – in particular, opposing cosmopolitan cultures of capital and labour that emerged out of the colonial encounter. Moving beyond the limited terms in which these are set out in the early writings of Marx and Engels might entail the construction of cosmopolitanism ‘from above’ as well as ‘from below’ – in Hall’s words, elite and popular cosmopolitanism – in the common cultural realm(s) that we all inhabit.

We do not yet know what identities of resistance or languages of solidarity are emerging out of the present encounter between Gulf capital and Asian migrant workers. The cosmopolitanism of labour is a resource for, but of course not the limit to, the construction of a broad, worldwide tradition of the working class and the oppressed, the political expression of which is internationalism. As Williams writes,

There is a distinct [English] working-class way of life which I, for one, value … I think this way of life, with its emphases of neighbourhood, mutual obligation, and common betterment, as expressed in the great working-class political and industrial institutions, is in fact the best basis for any future English society. As for the arts and learning, they are in a real sense a national inheritance, which is, or should be, available to everyone.[101]

Whether national or, as Marx and Engels foresaw, increasingly international, it is this emerging culture of the working class as it contests, suffers incorporation or is reshaped by the dominating capitalist culture, that provides our resources for struggle in the present, and, one hopes, an historical basis for the culture of our future.



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* The original idea that would become this article was conceived and presented at the London Historical Materialism conference in November 2015 as part of the Red Wedge Magazine-sponsored panel, ‘Who Stole the Soul? Understanding Cultural Exchange under Neoliberalism’. For that opportunity, I am grateful to my co-panellists Alex Billet and Crystal Stella Becceril, to the rest of the editorial board ofRed Wedge, and to those who participated in that initial discussion, especially Jaz Blackwell-Pal, Jordy Cummings and Dougal McNeill. I am proud to see this article realised as one product of a fruitful collaboration betweenHistorical Materialism andRed Wedge.

From Historical Materialism, Ashok Kumar was the first to encourage me to develop my ideas on cultural appropriation further, and has shepherded the article through all its many revisions. My three anonymous reviewers provided invaluable criticisms that made the arguments here stronger in every respect. Too many friends and comrades to recall or to list here contributed at various stages, from reviewing drafts to helping clarify my thoughts on this or that point, but I can name especially Nicole Colson, Snehal Shingavi, Nagesh Rao, Jacob Cook and Dean Imholz. At five minutes to midnight, Dan Hartley came through as an invaluable guide to the (for me) unmapped continent of cultural theory. Any credit gained by the arguments that follow is due also to everyone named above. The errors are mine alone.

[1] Bollywood Parks 2015.

[2] Davis 2011.

[3] Khalaf, AlShehabi and Hanieh (eds.) 2014.

[4] Meo 2005 and Badger and Cafiero 2014.

[5] Hanieh 2011, pp. 57–84.

[6] On music, see Bradford 2017; on painting, Black 2017 and McDermon 2015; on food, Bakall 2017 and Friedersdorf 2015; and on fashion, Calmese 2017.

[7] Compare Justin Brennan’s sarcasm (Brennan 2016) to the equally dismissive attitude of Fredrik DeBoer (DeBoer 2016; this post has since been removed by its author, but it sparked discussion in spring 2016). More-fruitful avenues of critique are shown by Billet 2016 and Becerril 2016.

[8] Williams 2002, p. 92.

[9] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, pp. 215–44.

[10] Banaji 2010, 2016a and 2016b.

[11] Rediker 2004; Linebaugh and Rediker 2000.

[12] Jinadasa 2015.

[13] For example, hooks 2009, pp. 370–5.

[14] One widely noted example of cultural appropriation is white Americans wearing headdresses imitating the style of those worn by Plains Indians, and which cause offence to these peoples by distorting a significant element of their heritage. Bonnett 1996, pp. 288–9, argues that this does not count as appropriation, since only a racist caricature is displayed rather than the genuine headdress of such spiritual and cultural significance to the Plains peoples. Bonnett’s instinct to move from the academic terms of appropriation back to those of racism pure and simple is well-taken, and I will follow that advice here. Williams 1977, p. 126, argues that ‘elements of emergence’ of a subordinate culture are frequently incorporated into the dominant culture as mere ‘facsimiles’, which seems to me a suggestive way to think of the headdress controversy.

[15] DeBoer 2016.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Fung 1993.

[18] Young and Brunk 2009, pp. 2–3.

[19] Young and Brunk 2009, p. 3.

[20] Young and Brunk 2009, p. 4.

[21] Merry 1998, pp. 602–3.

[22] Young and Brunk 2009, pp. 5–6. The concept of ‘profound offence’ is taken from Joel Feinberg’s philosophy of jurisprudence. See Feinberg 1985.

[23] Merry 1998, p. 581.

[24] Williams 1985, p. 89.

[25] Herder 1969, p. 311, quoted in Williams 1985, p. 89.

[26] Ibid., and Merry 1998, p. 581.

[27] Harman 1992.

[28] Williams 2002, pp. 93, 96.

[29] Williams 1985, p. 90.

[30] Hall 1998, p. 452.

[31] Williams 1977, p. 121.

[32] Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt 2009, p. 199; see also Thompson 2001. The collection edited by Young and Brunk, of which this essay is one part, is also notably marked by the liberal ‘politics of recognition’ that reproduce settler-colonialism while acknowledging limited space for the culture of indigenous nations. For a critique, see Coulthard 2014, pp. 25–50.

[33] Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt 2009, p. 186.

[34] The existence of song performance by the Kwakwaka’wakw nations and others as expressive of their law demonstrates nicely Williams’s argument that culture as ‘a whole way of life’ cannot be distinguished from culture as learning and expressive art: ‘I insist on both [meanings], and on the significance of their conjunction’ (Williams 2002, p. 93).

[35] Williams 2002, pp. 189–91.

[36] Williams 2002, pp. 185–6.

[37] Williams 2002, p. 191.

[38] Williams 2002, p. 192; see also Young and Brunk 2009, pp. 5–6.

[39] Williams 2002, p. 174.

[40] Williams 1977, p. 125.

[41] Williams 1977, p. 121.

[42] Hall 1998, p. 449; emphasis in original.

[43] Coleman, Coombe and MacArailt 2009, p. 198.

[44] Williams 1977, p. 126.

[45] Hall 1998, p. 449.

[46] ‘Inter/nationalism is a way to compare nationalisms, to put them into conversation, but also to examine how the invention and evolution of national identities depends on international dialectics’ (Salaita 2016, p. xiv). Much of the second and fourth sections here parallels Salaita’s approach.

[47] Wall 2016.

[48] Williams 2002, p. 93.

[49] Williams 2002, pp. 93–4; emphasis added.

[50] Williams 2002, pp. 95, 93.

[51] Williams 2002, pp. 95–6.

[52] Williams 1977, pp. 124–5.

[53] Marx and Engels 1848.

[54] Achcar 2014, pp. 103–7.

[55] Engels 1843.

[56] Marx 1845.

[57] Marx and Engels 1848. That the working class has no country does not mean it has noculture – I elaborate on working-class culture in the final main section of this paper.

[58] Achcar 2014, pp. 103–23.

[59] My terms ‘cosmopolitanism of capital’ and ‘cosmopolitanism of labour’ owe something to Vivek Chibber’s notion of the universal drive of capital pitted against the universal interest of labour to defend its own well-being. See Chibber 2013, pp. 202–6.

[60] Hall 1998, p. 449.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Jinadasa 2015.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Banaji 2016b. By merchant or mercantile capitalism, I refer to those social formations in which production for exchange and sale by merchants dominates production for expanding the circuit of industrial production, as laid out in Banaji 2016a, pp. 424–7.

[65] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, pp. 215–19.

[66] Brandon 2011, pp. 120–5.

[67] Although I do not attempt to centre it, the argument laid out here at several points must sail through the rocky shoals of the transition debate. Perhaps one does not have to consider the Dutch Republic or the VOC as capitalist to accept the main premises of the argument I am making in terms of cultural appropriation, and of course many do not, among whom see in particular Wood 2002, pp. 88–94. However, my own argument rests on a certain account of the transition because, as I see it, the claim made by Jinadasa 2015 and others that a certain form of cultural appropriation was foundational to capitalism’s birth entails the concept having some amount of purchase.

[68] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, p. 227. See also Brandon 2016, pp. 83–138, on the VOC’s larger role within the Dutch economy.

[69] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, pp. 235–8. See also Lucassen 2004, p. 24.

[70] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, pp. 238–40.

[71] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, pp. 240–2.

[72] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, p. 244.

[73] Banaji 2010, p. 270. The permanent and expanding circulation of capital is what I take to be Banaji’s definition of capitalism.

[74] Jinadasa 2015.

[75] Williams 1977, p. 126; Hall 1998, p. 449.

[76] Linebaugh and Rediker 2002.

[77] Rediker 2004. By ethnogenesis, I refer to the material origin of national and international ethnicities and cultures. Arguably, formation of the Black race (as opposed to separate African ethnicities) did not take place until the late seventeenth century, under the impact of multi-racial insurgencies in North America such as Bacon’s Rebellion. See Fields 1990, pp. 106–8.

[78] As Steven Salaita writes, this was a form of ‘action and dialogue across borders, both natural and geopolitical – not the nationalism of the nation-state, but of the nation itself as composed of heterogeneous communities’ (Salaita 2016, p. xiv).

[79] Rediker 2004, p. 44.

[80] Rediker 2004, pp. 44–5.

[81] Rediker 2004, p. 267.

[82] Achebe 1964, quoted in Rediker 2004, p. 118.

[83] Rediker 2004, p. 118.

[84] Rediker 2004, p. 265.

[85] Linebaugh and Rediker 2002, p. 158.

[86] This is to say nothing of the non-European workforce recruited as soldiers or carpenters, or enslaved. See Lucassen 2004, pp. 17–18.

[87] Rediker 2004, p. 259.                                

[88] Linebaugh and Rediker 2000, pp. 174–211. See also the enlightening discussion of their work in Meyerson 2000.

[89] Linebaugh and Rediker 2000, p. 154.

[90] Williams 1977, p. 126.

[91] Anievas and Nişancıoğlu 2015, pp. 215–44.

[92] Ibid.

[93] See, for instance, the exaggerated list of its uses in Merry 1998, pp. 602–3.

[94] DeBoer 2016.

[95] Rediker 2004; Linebaugh and Rediker 2000.

[96] Cabral 1973.

[97] Marx 1845; Linebaugh and Rediker 2000.

[98] Ness 2015, p. 63.

[99] Khalaf, AlShehabi and Hanieh (eds.) 2014.

[100] Williams 1977, p. 121; Hall 1998, p. 449.

[101] Williams 2002, p. 96.