Debt is spatial dispossession; debt is setter colonialism: Christopher Harker, ‘Debt space: Topologies, ecologies and Ramallah, Palestine’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 2017
Abstract: Debt is widely conceived as temporal – present consumption bought with future labour. This paper advances conceptualisations of debt by incorporating the active role space plays in creating, maintaining and undermining debt relations. Debts are topological binds – a particular kind of spatial connection, which are entangled with topographic spaces to produce debt ecologies. This argument is developed by tracing the creation, maintenance and/or destruction of spatial connections between different people, communities, institutions and sites in the Palestinian conurbation of Ramallah – Al Bireh. Attending to the spatiality of debt offers a better understanding of debt itself, and extends relational approaches to finance that deploy network imaginaries, which cannot account for topological spacings that fold or dissolve distance and divisions. The extensive range of time-spaces that co-constitute specific debt ecologies also reveal a more-than-economic geography, which in the context of Ramallah enfolds family and geopolitics. These entanglements emerge from a methodological approach that uses ethnography to move beyond statistical representations of debt. Thinking debt topologically also responds to postcolonial concerns about the locatedness of theory.
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