Book Review Symposium – Peter James Hudson’s “Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean”

Thanks to Antipode’s very own Katherine McKittrick (Queen’s University) we’re able to present here a superb series of engagements with Peter James Hudson’s Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean. Published last year by University of Chicago Press, the book explores the period from the end of the 19th century to the onset of the Great Depression, a period during which “Wall Street embarked on a stunning, unprecedented, and often bloody period of international expansion in the Caribbean”:

A host of financial entities sought to control banking, trade, and finance in the region. In the process, they not only trampled local sovereignty, grappled with domestic banking regulation, and backed US imperialism – but they also set the model for bad behaviour by banks, visible still today. In Bankers and Empire, Peter James Hudson tells the provocative story of this period, taking a close look at both the institutions and individuals who defined this era of American capitalism in the West Indies. Whether in Wall Street minstrel shows or in dubious practices across the Caribbean, the behaviour of the banks was deeply conditioned by bankers’ racial views and prejudices. Drawing deeply on a broad range of sources, Hudson reveals that the banks’ experimental practices and projects in the Caribbean often led to embarrassing failure, and, eventually, literal erasure from the archives.

Katherine organised an “author meets critics” session at the 2018 AAG annual meeting in New Orleans, bringing together Marion Werner and Hannah Stokes-Ramos (University at Buffalo, SUNY), Petal Samuel (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Beverley Mullings (Queen’s University), Alex Moulton (Clark University), Jovan Scott Lewis (University of California, Berkeley) and Javier Arbona (University of California, Davis) to take on Hudson’s provocative narrative in critical and compelling ways. In return, he offered a sustained, thoughtful, and generous response.

We’ve said before that we agree that the “chief value of book reviewing is in its continuation of the conversation started in a book, in situating the work in wider discussions happening within the field and therefore of seeing academic books not as the final product of a singular genius, but as part of an ongoing, shifting, discursive and collective process of scholarship”, and we hope that you’ll agree that these reviews, and the author’s response to them, represent not only valuable assessments of new work, but also new work themselves.

Organiser’s introduction

Katherine McKittrick (Queen’s University)

The reviews

Marion Werner and Hannah Stokes-Ramos (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Petal Samuel (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Beverley Mullings (Queen’s University)

Alex Moulton (Clark University)

Jovan Scott Lewis (University of California, Berkeley)

Javier Arbona (University of California, Davis)

Author’s reply

Peter James Hudson (University of California, Los Angeles)