2018 Shaw Lecture: The Pirates of Racial Capitalism and Abolition Ecology; by Nik Heynen

March 23, 2018
Claude Pepper Center, Broad Auditorium

Our 2018 Shaw Lecture will be delivered by Professor Nik Heynen from the University of Georgia.

Title: The Pirates of Racial Capitalism and Abolition Ecology


At a prominent kitchen table on Sapelo Island I was once told that if Edward Teach’s treasure, rumored to be on Blackbeard Island just across a small tidal channel, was recovered it would prevent the remaining Saltwater Geechee community on Sapelo from further displacement and experiencing cultural genocide. Blackbeard’s treasure was in part generated by his engagement in the Transatlantic slave trade, which matters because Sapelo Island maintains the most in-tact remaining Gullah/Geechee community in the U.S., having been home to thirteen generations that directly tie their ancestry to first slaves brought there in 1802. The paper is about the pirates of racial capitalism and the persistent need for abolition ecology amidst their historical wake.
I’ll stretch this kitchen table conversation toward its global implications to show how the last slave ship to illegally unload on U.S. shores did so on Jekyll Island in 1858, just south of Blackbeard and Sapelo Islands. This is the same island that in 1910 JP Morgan, who fashioned himself as a pirate, clandestinely organized a meeting that led to the formation of the U.S. Federal Reserve bank. I’ll argue these events prefigured contemporary illicit tax havens used by JP Morgan Chase and that Jamie Dimon’s subsequent acts of global piracy impede abolition ecology. Just as Blackbeard’s treasure would facilitate securing land on Sapelo, the taxes on JP Morgan Chase’s (and other transnational corporations’) hidden booty would allow for abolitionist reparations as called for in the wake of the US Civil War across the U.S.

Previous Shaw Lecturers include:

2008: Dr. Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia
2013: Dr. Deborah Martin, Clark University
2014: Dr. Jai Ranganathan, University of California, Santa Barbara
2015: Dr. Eric Sheppard, University of California, Los Angeles
2016: Dr. Elizabeth Havice, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill