Cornell University

Terror Capitalism: Producing the 'Terrorist-Worker' in Northwest China, by Darren Byler

Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 4:45pm

Virtual Event

This talk focuses on some of the key ideas of my ethnographic monograph Terror Capitalism: Uyghur Dispossession and Masculinity in a Chinese City.  Drawing on more than 24 months of ethnographic research in the Uyghur region of Northwest China and nearby Kazakhstan between 2011 and 2020, open-source and internal police documents, and extensive interviews with current and former “terrorist-workers” before their detention in 2017, interviews with their family members since detention, and in several cases post release, it considers how Muslim farmers can be turned into unfree workers under the sign of terrorism.  By placing these accounts in the context of broader economic transformations in the region and considering how the rise of the “terrorist-worker” figures in scholarship of the frontiers of global economy, the article makes a broader argument about a global turn toward techno-political systems of capital accumulation and state power. Specifically, it considers the roles that dataveillance and legal frames of exclusion play in the rise of what I name terror capitalism—an ethno-racialized system of data and labor expropriation and social control that operates under the sign of the “terrorist.”  It shows how such a system can generate capital by holding targeted groups in place through biometric and social surveillance, producing forms of self-discipline and unfree labor for private manufacturers.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Comparative Muslim Societies Program



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Gloria Lemus-Chavez

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