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Work and Coloniality


This project follows from my PhD work on the postcolonial capitalist condition. I describe this condition as the contemporary global circumstance, effected by the entanglement of capital and the human and of capital, wherein the eradication (domination and destruction) of the poor is authorised as the preservation of economic and ethical value. My thesis thus offered an analysis of the violence of capital not as socio-materially imposed (per Marx) but rather as an onto-materially authorised (following Bataille). 

My current research builds on this work through an engagement with coloniality. Anibal Quijano (2000: 552) describes coloniality as an arrangement of power propagated through a ‘cognitive model’ that affirms a categorical distinction between Europe and non‐Europe. Crucially, this arrangement of power inaugurates a ‘new technology of domination/exploitation, in this case race/ labor ... articulated in such a way that the two elements appeared naturally associated’ (p. 537). That is, the coloniality of power not only assigns specific forms of activity to specific forms of existence, but also makes these associations appear natural.


Coloniality thus reveals how its distribution along lines of gender, sexual and racial difference stems from the differential valuation of life and its associated activities. It enables us to comprehend how relations of domination and exploitation in the organization of work are an effect of, and authorized by, an ethical subjugation inherent in the unfolding of gender, sexual and racial difference. 

Such an accounting of work, I propose, reveals the ontological priority of difference. It allows us to see how inequality and exploitation in work are not merely structural effects but instead are ontological effects of the institution of difference in modernity. 


Bataille, G (1993) The accursed share: An essay on general economy. Volumes 2-3. A history of eroticism and Sovereignty. New York: Zone Books.

Marx, K (1970) Economic and philosophical manuscripts. In E. Fromm (ed.) Marx’s concept of Man. New York: Frederick Ungar. 

Quijano, A (2000) Coloniality of power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. Neplanta: Views from South, 1: 533–580.

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