Anna Tsing

On Heart of Darkness and Moby-Dick as examples of salvage capitalism:

Moby-Dick tells of a ship of whalers whose rowdy cosmopolitanism contrasts sharply with our stereotypes of factory discipline; yet the oil they obtain from killing whales around the world enters a U.S.-based capitalist supply chain. Strangely, all the harpooners on the Pequod are unassimilated indigenous people from Asia, Africa, America, and the Pacific. The ship is unable to kill a single whale without the expertise of people who are completely untrained in U.S. industrial discipline. But the products of this work must eventually be translated into capitalist value forms; the ship sails only because of capitalist financing. The conversion of indigenous knowledge into capitalist returns is salvage accumulation. So too is the conversion of whale life into investments.

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (pp. 63-64). Princeton University Press.


4 thoughts on “Anna Tsing

    1. To go with it, there is this new book on cannibalism of black people by slavers. I must find the citation and place it here.

  1. “Across many sectors and cultures, mediators are poised to convert capitalist commodities into other value forms. Such middlemen are engaged in the acts of value translation through which capitalism comes to cohabit with other ways of making people and things.”

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