Pan African Capital? Banks, Currencies, and Imperial Power

Hannah Appel is associate professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and associate director at the Institute on Inequality + Democracy. She is the author of 2019's The Licit Life of Capitalism: US Oil in Equatorial Guinea (Duke University Press) and co-author of 2020's Can’t Pay Won’t Pay: the case for economic disobedience and debt abolition (Haymarket Press).

U.S. and Europe-based banks and international financial institutions including the IMF have been central to critical accounts of Africa’s place in global capitalism. And yet since 2008 these institutions have been in retreat on the continent, partially replaced by Pan African Banks. Putting ethnographic work with Africa-based finance professionals into dialogue with heterodox economic thinking on banks and currency sovereignty, I argue that we must not only analyze the geographic shift in where banks are headquartered and who owns them, but also generate empirical and theoretical shifts in what a bank is, what it does, and to what effect, especially in terms of the relationship between currencies, social violence, and imperial and racial power.

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