In The Nomos of the Earth, Schmitt attends to the fact that the sea was always located outside of territorial, juridical regulations, defined as a space that enabled and, indeed, linked the very two “practices” that Kant and Schumpeter saw as distinct and even opposite, namely, we saw, war and commerce. In the naval space … only war and commerce take place. And all that is solid melts into blood. Both the dissolution of space … and the liquefaction of money—its circulation as blood money, under the figure of unification in the blood of Christ—partake of the same logic and of the same transformation. 1
The lawlessness of the sea, its openness and outsideness is the space of transformation and magic. Solids melt into blood, money becomes liquid, and circulates as blood money. I don’t know that there is any clearer example of this magic than the transatlantic slave trade. The dissolution of bodies into blood—differentiated blood—and into blood money. The transformation of black people into property occurs under the banner of the blood of Christ.
I simply want to reflect a bit on what this liquefaction of money means when blackness is what is exchangeable. Turning blackness into blood and turning blood into money which is then circulated helps us see whose liquefaction is required for capital to circulate. So then, is liquefaction the process by which blackness is liquedated? In the aftermath of the real estate crisis and the crash of the US’s always already fragile economic system 2008, what became even more clear (though for those who have been liquidated, it has been clear for a long time), was the dependency of the economy on dissolving blackness into capital, profiting off of black misery in order to pad bank accounts. To be more clear: blackness is the grounds of liquidity; blacks are liquid assets. Maintaining a stability of meaning as that which can be traded for the purpose of….what, exactly? Unification under Christ’s blood? A certain kind of social order? An illusion of freedom?
I recently moved near an area of Nashville that is in the process of being gentrified. As much as the 3-story $500,000 quasi-beach house architecture testifies to the new white money entering the area, another tell is that when I tell white people where I live, their response is always, “Oh, that area is really taking off!” by which they mean, “white people have really started moving in there! How cool!” One white man I met thought this information was best presented laughingly as he told my partner and I “If you you moved to that area because you thought it was going to be diverse, that won’t last too long,” and then proceeded to talk about how great Nashville’s development is going and all the great planning that’s goign to transform it into a bikeable and walkable city. That this white man, trained in urban planning and real estate law, didn’t see any kind of disjunction between the displacement of poor black folks and what he thought was a great path for development highlights the foundational nature of blackness as liquidity in the modern imagination. It is always being liquidated, pronounced bankrupt, and so terminated and sold, redistributed into new neighborhoods that aren’t hip or up and coming.
Anidjar’s Blood draws our eyes to the role of Christ’s blood in transforming bodies into blood into money and the racialized nature of this transformation. Noting the eucharistic logic here is particularly insightful of him. Given the extent to which a certain trend in theology is to posit the Eucharist as the remedy for all kinds of disunity—but particularly, here, racial disunity—we might begin to think, through Anidjar, that since the Eucharist is the source of racialization to begin with, perhaps it is what ails us rather than what will save us? In participating in the body and the blood, the holding together of some in a cohesive social body is at the expense of others liquidation. The redemption of the city being undergone in places like Detroit and Nashville, San Francisco and New York, Atlanta and Chicago, is nothing new. It’s the liquidation of space. The liquidation of blackness. Recirculating forever in veins without end. Amen.
[Update: I just wanted to add a link to a group/symposium , liquid blackness, at Georgia State doing some really good work around liquid and blackness that touches on some of what I’ve thought about with regard to blackness as liquid, which I think is distinct from blackness as liquidity. That is, thinking of blackness as liquid suggests something of the movement, force, and mode of resistance that characterizes blackness as a form of being rather than an identity.]
- p. 150 ↩
4 thoughts on “Liquidating Blackness – Blood Book Event”
Really great post, Amaryah. I haven’t read the book yet, though I may read some of the introductory stuff tomorrow. Your post and the others have served as great primers.
One thing, only slightly tangential, that stuck out to me in your post was that the distinction between liquefaction and liquidation becomes more and more indeterminate (in true deconstructive fashion). No doubt this is a deliberate rhetorical move on the part of Anidjar, and on your part as well. What struck me was that the term liquidation is often used to refer not only to the juridical sphere of commerce (i.e. the company is finished; it’s being liquidated), but also to the extra-judicial killing or political assassination of a person. Which, of course, raises the question of whether war is ever a judicial or legal matter, or if it is always already ‘outside’ of such structures. Given your thoughts on the Israel-Gaza conflict in one of your previous posts at WIT, I thought this might be of interest to you. Perhaps Anidjar covers this himself in the book.
Reading this post makes me conscious of how incisive Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage” is regarding the process of “Turning blackness into blood and turning blood into money…”
Clearly the poem conjures “the space of transformation and magic” which is the ocean — as do Hayden’s references to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and The Tempest. And the transformation of “bodies into blood into money” (particularly under the auspices of Christian “unlove”) is central throughout: “Standing to America, bringing home / black gold, black ivory, black seed.”
But one aspect of the poem which particularly struck me as I reread it along the lines you and Anidjar chart was Hayden’s emphasis on the materiality of the transformations which took place. In “Middle Passage” bodies aren’t transformed into blood and money without waste, fever, cannibalism, effluvium. “The liquidation of blackness” is insistently brought back to the dying who “lie foul with blood and excrement.” Nowadays, the materiality of these transformations manifests in the “displacement of poor black folks …. into new neighbourhoods,” you cite, or the conditions of the Lower Ninth Ward post-Katrina.
Tim, thanks for you comment. I think you’re right, and I was beginning to think about blackness and its criminality as being a case of liquidation, of targeting and extermination. Will have to think on that further.
Gabriel, thanks. I haven’t read this poem, yet, but I definitely will now.
Nothing substantive to add, but wanted to register my appreciation of this post. I think the connection to real estate (my god, that phrase just hit me like a ton of bricks, what the fuck does that mean?!) is brilliant.
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