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Peter James Hudson recounts a history of the exploits of U.S. bankers in the Caribbean and Central America from the 1890s to the 1930s. Fleshing out the history of "racial capitalism," a concept pioneered by the late Cedric Robinson to explain the foundational imbrications of racism with capitalism, Hudson argues that the foundation for finance capital on the front lines of the United States' informal empire was white supremacy. The Caribbean, where Hudson's rogue figures helped propagate such racialized economies, was less rigid and less binary in its regulation and negotiation of race than the United States during Jim Crow. American bankers went to countries where property, rather than race, determined de facto voting rights, where whites were a minority, where a racial spectrum existed between black and white. Cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall's posthumous memoir provides a distilled sense of this terrain. If U.S. finance capitalism and European colonialism rested on racist foundations, resistance to both was built on assertions of black pride.
Gaiutra Bahadur reviews Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean by Peter James Hudson and Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands by Stuart Hall.