“Credit is a means of privatization and debt a means of socialisation. So long as they pair in the monogamous violence of the home, the pension, the government, or the university, debt can only feed credit, debt can only desire credit. And credit can only expand by means of debt. But debt is social and credit is asocial. Debt is mutual. Credit runs only one way. But debt runs in every direction, scatters, escapes, seeks refuge.” (Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The Undercommons, 61)

“We hear them say, what’s wrong with you is your bad debt. You’re not working. You fail to pay your debt to society. You have no credit, but that is to be expected. You have bad credit, and that is fine. But bad debt is a problem. Debt seeking only other debt, detached from creditors, fugitive from restructuring. Destructuring debt, now that’s wrong. But even still, what’s wrong with you can be fixed. First we give you a chance. That’s called governance, a chance to be interested, and a shot even at being disinterested. That’s policy. Or we give you policy, if you are still wrong, still bad. Bad debt is senseless, which is to say it cannot be perceived by the senses of capital. But there is therapy available. Governance wants to connect your debt again to the outside world. You are on the spectrum, the capitalist spectrum of interests. You are the wrong end. Your bad debt looks unconnected, autistic, in its own world. But you can be developed. You can get credit after all. The key is interests. Tell us what you want. Tell us what you want and we can help you get it, on credit. We can lower the rate so you can have interest. We can raise the rate so you will pay attention. But we can’t do it alone. Governance only works when you work, when you tell us your interests, when you invest your interests again in debt and credit. Governance is the therapy of your interests, and your interests will bring your credit back. You will have an investment, even in debt. And governance will gain new senses, new perceptions, new advances into the world of bad debt, new victories in the war on those without interests, those who will not speak for themselves, participate, identify their interests, invest, inform, demand credit.” (Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The Undercommons, 66)

There are a variety of ways in which one can understand blackness’ relation to value. As I’ve tried to set out in the two previous posts, within the system of global racial capitalism, the position of the black is one of permanent indebtedness. Blackness is the exclusion from the social relations of the credible. It is the inescapable nature of one’s debt, which is one’s blackness. This indebtedness is the means by which the credibility of those who can be creditors or debtors is maintained. The value of credibility requires the devaluation of indebtedness, which is to say, requires seeing debt as a threat. Seeing blackness as a threat.

Criminalization is the technique by which this devaluation of indebtedness is maintained. Criminalization is the process of seeing from within the capitalist field of vision. In this range of visibility, blackness is only recognizeable as the threat of indebtedness, which is the threat of poverty. To protect credibility from this threat is the role of the carceral, which says it seeks the rehabilitation of the criminal. This is true, as Moten and Harney show us. The carceral mode of governance is concerned with blackness – which is to say indebtedness, which is to say bad debt -because it is concerned with maintaining the value of credibility. The promise of value, of being recognized as valuable, is what is policed.

Do we see people going about their lives as if credibility isn’t valuable? Those are the criminal, the always indebted, the black. Do we see people who understand that the promise of value money offers is paid for with their flesh and blood? Those are the criminal, the poor, the threats.

Understanding criminality through racial capital must radical reorient our field of vision, where debt is the horizon, the limit of our thought. To transgress the limit of debt, to inhabit the space where the indebted have been living their non-credible criminal lives, is to make a move that reevaluates the value money promises.

This movement is to understand, with Moten, that credit runs only one way (which is toward whiteness and the aspiration for credibility), while debt runs in all directions, to the Ferguson protests, the striking fast food workers, the undocumented laborers, the precarious adjuncts, the disappeared Mexican students, and, and, and …

To understand blackness as debt, as criminal, is to understand the value of the double in black thought. That value, as it is given by the racialized economy of credit/debt, is not respected. The double does the work of inflating and undercutting the terms of respectability, the proper, the police. Indebtedness and criminality in black study, then, are ways of naming the fact that there is something happening over where the non-credible criminal lives are cohabitating. They are a way of understanding the value of credibility requires the governance of these non-credible criminal lives, or their destruction. In response to the violence that is the imposition of a violating indebtedness, the indebted criminal black violates property, propriety, and the credibility of whiteness, of the police which protect this credibility, and of the state which governs this credibility.

“The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.” - Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter


“When Zeus fashioned man he gave him certain inclinations, but he forgot about shame. Not knowing how to introduce her, he ordered her to enter through the rectum. Shame baulked at this and was highly indignant. Finally, she said to Zeus: ‘All right! I’ll go in, but on the condition that Eros doesn’t come in the same way; if he does, I will leave immediately.’ Ever since then, all homosexuals are without shame. This fable shows that those who are prey to love lose all shame.” –Aesop, Fable 118: “Zeus & Shame”

“The veil of modesty torn, the shameful parts shown, I know—with my cheeks aflame—the need to hide myself or die, but I believe by facing and enduring this painful anxiety I shall, as a result of my shamelessness, come to know a strange beauty.” - Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal Continue Reading »

Human beings are storytellers. We are formed by stories, and stories are always constructed but only sometimes true. In storytelling, framing matters: we must decide where to begin the story, from whose perspective to tell it, which details to include and which to omit. The way we choose to tell a story shapes the sense we make. Whole worlds rise and fall on the backs of stories.

White supremacy survives in part by stories. White people recite a set of shared storylines, accented by common narrative tropes, animated by the same cast of characters. White people do not need to know each other to know each other’s stories. We know white people by the stories they tell.

In recent weeks, many white people have relied on these stories to make sense of and defend themselves against the events in Ferguson and New York. Above all, these stories of white supremacy allow white people to remain undisturbed and unmoved, both physically and spiritually. They do not want to relinquish their racially segregated neighborhoods or the racialized power these spaces provide them; they do not want to re-consider their belief in the fundamental goodness and innocence of either their race or the country to which they pledge allegiance. They know they are good; their stories tell them so.

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“The credit economy is a network of contracted servitude. … Whenever one spends money, one spends a portion of the substance, wealth and life of those who have undertaken loans. Yet the value of money is also backed by profitability, including the drudge of labour in sweatshops and factories, the exclusion from the formal economy of those who are not employed profitably, the consumption of natural resources and the erosion of ecosystems and societies. The value of money is still paid for in flesh and blood.” (Philip Goodchild, Theology of Money, 239)

“The debtor may be infinitely removed from equality with her debt, she may have infinitely little in common with what she owes, but this gap between her privative actuality and the telos that is promised her on credit still renders her visible as a figure of this economy.” (Sean Capener, An Unbloody Priesthood in an Economy of Blood)

“Although the existence of certain property rights may seem self-evident, and the protection of certain expectations may seem essential for social stability, property is a legal construct by which selected private interests are protected and upheld. In creating property ‘rights,’ the law draws boundaries and enforces or reorders existing regimes of power. The inequalities that are produced and reproduced are not givens or inevitabilities; rather, they are conscious selections regarding the structuring of social relations. In this sense, it is contended that property rights and interests are not ‘natural’ but ‘creation[s] of law.’ In a society structured on racial subordination, white privilege became an expectation and … whiteness became the quintessential property for personhood.” (Cheryl Harris, Whiteness as Property, 280-81)

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Earlier this month as I was reading in a coffee shop and feeling pretty fucking sore and resentful after pelvic floor therapy (which is par for the course about half the time), I overhead a group of three middle-aged women talking at the table next to me. At first I thought they were just shooting the shit (and rather loudly, at that). And the only thing more annoying than Three Women Loudly Talking In A Public Space is Three Men Loudly Doing That. (Maybe I just have a thing about inside voices…) I sighed with resignation and redoubled my efforts to focus on the text at hand.

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Guest post! Guest post!

Danica is a journalist, a mobile yoga studio owner and a metal rocker (and she and Elizabeth have known each other since they were ten years old!). She is also a transgender woman who distanced herself from the Catholic Church—the faith of her upbringing—in order to live out her identity in a healthy and positive way. At WIT’s request, she graciously agreed to write the following reflection as a window into her life story, especially her relationship with sexuality and with celibacy at different points in her transition.

This reflection also serves as a companion piece to a recent Washington Post article which describes the choices of many LGBT Christians to live a celibate lifestyle as a way of reconciling their sexualities with their Christian identity.

WIT is thrilled to have Danica tell her story.

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On January 27th—just a little over a week ago now—Corey Batey and Brandon Vanderburg were convicted on 16 counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery, found guilty after a 12-day trial . The case has draw a great deal of both local and national attention, so I won’t go into any real detail of rehashing what went down, but in short, Vanderberg and Batey, along with Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, who are still awaiting trial, were accused (and in the case of the former, convicted) of a rather brutal rape and assault of a then 21-year-old student, who actually happened to be Vanderberg’s girlfriend at the time, and who was unconscious at the time of the rape. The survivor had not even been aware of what had happened to her until she had seen the video that Vanderberg had taped with his phone (and then tried to destroy/cover-up). Basically, this woman found out via video footage—footage that was circulated to a number of Vandy football players—that, while on a night out with her boyfriend, she was the victim of a gang rape that had been basically orchestrated, and then filmed, by said boyfriend. Awful is the only word I can think of at the moment, though that seems to be putting it far too lightly.

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