Colonial Debts

The Case of Puerto Rico

Colonial Debts

Radical Américas

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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: May 2021

Author: Rocío Zambrana

Caribbean Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Marxism

With the largest municipal debt in US history and a major hurricane that destroyed much of the archipelago's infrastructure, Puerto Rico has emerged as a key site for the exploration of neoliberalism and disaster capitalism. In Colonial Debts Rocío Zambrana develops the concept of neoliberal coloniality in light of Puerto Rico's debt crisis. Drawing on decolonial thought and praxis, Zambrana shows how debt functions as an apparatus of predation that transforms how neoliberalism operates. Debt functions as a form of coloniality, intensifying race, gender, and class hierarchies in ways that strengthen the colonial relation between Puerto Rico and the United States. Zambrana also examines the transformation of protest in Puerto Rico. From La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción's actions, long-standing land rescue/occupation in the territory, to the July 2019 protests that ousted former governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló, protests pursue variations of decolonial praxis that subvert the positions of power that debt installs. As Zambrana demonstrates, debt reinstalls the colonial condition and adapts the racial/gender order essential to it, thereby emerging as a key site for political-economic subversion and social rearticulation.


“At a time when many are turning to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, there is a dire need for sophisticated texts like this that can help unsettle much of the commonsense thinking about Puerto Rico's debt and its colonial relationship to the United States. It is rare to see a book of this level of theoretical heft so well grounded in contemporary politics. Colonial Debts makes a unique and urgent contribution.” — Yarimar Bonilla, coeditor of Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm

“There are few better sites than Puerto Rico to take as a case study for the exploration of the entanglement between neoliberalism, colonialism, and coloniality. Rocío Zambrana offers a creative theoretical account that expands the horizon of examination from financial debts to historical debts, and from juridico-political colonialism to coloniality. Colonial Debts provides an indispensable philosophical analysis to understand our current time. It is an essential reading in critical and political theory, as well as in Puerto Rican and Caribbean Studies.” — Nelson Maldonado-Torres, author of Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rocío Zambrana is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and author of Hegel's Theory of Intelligibility.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Colonial Debts  1
1. Neoliberal Coloniality  21
2. Colonial Exceptionality  53
3. Historical Reckoning  82
4. Subversive Interruption  110
Conclusion. Decoloniality as Reparations  139
Notes  167
Bibliography  229
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1183-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1072-2