The many lives of fungibility: anti-blackness in neoliberal times
(2020) Journal of Gender Studies, 29 (1), pp. 102-112.
This article maps the many lives of the concept of fungibility in contemporary theories of both blackness and neoliberalism. Framed by the 2018 political chants across the US against ‘white supremacy’, the article unravels how neoliberalism obfuscates the singular vector of anti-blackness that grounds the colonial ontology of liberalism, modernity, and global capitalism. By tracing the concept of fungibility through the work of Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, and C. Riley Snorton, the article shows how fungibility works both ontologically and semiotically. The article then tracks fungibility through the neoliberal episteme, as derived from Michel Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics, to expose how the neoliberal episteme bastardizes the concepts of social difference into clever accoutrement, thereby eroding the capacity of neoliberal subjects to grasp the persistent ontology of anti-blackness. While the article does not track these dynamics strictly along the trajectories of bio/necropolitics, the foundational role of black death in the colonial ontology of liberalism, modernity, and global capitalism is precisely what the neoliberal episteme obfuscates; by approaching neoliberalism, through Foucault, as the birthing of biopolitics, we see how the division and tensions between biopolitics and necropolitics are racialized. Put more stridently, neoliberalism enables the biopolitical celebration of both life and diversity as values in and of themselves, without any concern for the histories of specific forms of life and specific forms of difference. In this vein, necropolitics calls out the foundational and persistent role of anti-blackness in the colonial ontology of liberalism that neoliberalism intensifies. This leads to the article’s concluding demand that white subjects must countenance fungibility in its ontological and semiotic iterations, speculating that we may be entering a historical moment when this might occur. © 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Anti-blackness; colonial ontology; diversity; feminist; fungibility; gender; neoliberalism; racialization; radical black studies