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  • Preface
  • Sarah Banet-Weiser

This special issue, Race, Empire, and the Crisis of the Subprime, interjects into the discourse and conditions of an ongoing global economic and racial crisis. That is, it is not a "coda" to the crisis, signaling a conclusion, or a kind of retrospective on the ravages of global and racial capitalism. Neither does it serve to locate the "origins" of what has come to be known as the "subprime crisis." Rather, it is a necessary intervention in the midst of crisis, a recognition of the historical legacies that envelop and frame the 2008 global economic crisis, as well as a call to critically acknowledge the varied spaces and homes worldwide that this latest crisis has shaped, destroyed, or irrevocably changed. As such, this special issue is an excellent example of the efforts by American studies scholars, as well as those in other disciplines, to imagine and theorize an "American" studies that is deeply, and inevitably, transnational and transhemispheric. Above all else, it is a reminder that global racial capitalism cannot be understood within the frame of economics alone; rather, it needs to be theorized and imagined as a set of cultural, political, and geographic practices on and within persons and places.

As is clear from the volume of scholarship on the current global economic crisis, including the essays presented in this special issue, there are complex, multilayered, and deeply interrelated reasons for, and effects of, the global economic crisis of 2008. During the years 2007-8, around the world, stock markets fell, large financial institutions collapsed or were bought out, and governments in even the wealthiest nations scrambled to develop rescue packages to bail out their financial systems. The collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market and the reversal of the housing boom in other industrialized economies had a ripple effect in other nations. The failure of the national economies of Spain and Greece (to name just two) has had resounding impacts on the European Union (EU) experiencing the disciplinary power of debt. Importantly, however, as the authors in this volume persuasively point out, the current crisis has important precedents in other crises in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s. Relatedly, and most urgently for the contributors to this volume, the 2008 global crisis was triggered by what the volume's coeditors call "unpayable debts" by "high-risk borrowers," namely (in the United States), black and Latino/a borrowers and communities. [End Page v]

The culture of the current economy has generated a variety of impulses and reactions to the financial crisis of the early twenty-first century: there have been financial responses in the form of government corporate subsidies; subversive challenges to capitalism in terms of alternative lifestyles; ideological proclamations about what capitalism is and should be; recuperative answers that privilege a new, "leaner," global market; and so on.

While there has been a range of reactions, for the most part state responses have not called attention to larger infrastructural failures that contributed to the global economic crisis, such as mortgage fraud, corporate greed, racism, and colonial histories. Rather, the global crisis has often been staged as a sort of "media event," where there are contrived debates between pundits on television, conservative radio hosts on talk radio, and corporate "citizens," who carelessly and dangerously point to what the coeditors of this special issue recognize as the stylized "high-risk borrower," the working class and people of color, who become the literal iteration of the "subprime" as a way to place blame on particular persons while exonerating others, particularly those at the "top of the guilt [profit] hierarchy." Indeed, the 2008 global economic crisis has been skillfully shape-shifted into an opportunity for some corporate players, where there are efforts to brand the crisis, as a way to frame it as an opportunity for—indeed, a moral obligation of—the individual worker to address. In turn, this focus on particular individuals as recuperative players in a global crisis renders invisible the "high-risk borrower" and the ravages of capitalism on racialized communities.

Importantly, the coeditors of this volume pose a different set of questions to both understand the politics of economic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. v-vii
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-28
Open Access
No
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