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The Ghost in the Algorithm: Racial Colonial Capitalism and the Digital Age

Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism

ISBN: 978-1-80117-219-6, eISBN: 978-1-80117-218-9

Publication date: 30 September 2021


While technologies are often packaged as solutions to long-standing social ills, scholars of digital economies have raised the alarm that, far from liberatory, technologies often further entrench social inequities and in fact automate structures of oppression. This literature has been revelatory but tends to replicate a methodological nationalism that erases global racial hierarchies. We argue that digital economies rely on colonial pathways and in turn serve to replicate a racialized and neocolonial world order. To make this case, we draw on W.E.B. Du Bois' writings on capitalism's historical development through colonization and the global color line. Drawing specifically on The World and Africa as a global historical framework of racism, we develop heuristics that make visible how colonial logics operated historically and continue to this day, thus embedding digital economies in this longer history of capitalism, colonialism, and racism. Applying a Du Boisian framework to the production and propagation of digital technologies shows how the development of such technology not only relies on preexisting racial colonial production pathways and the denial of racially and colonially rooted exploitation but also replicates these global structures further.



Hammer, R. and Park, T.M. (2021), "The Ghost in the Algorithm: Racial Colonial Capitalism and the Digital Age", White, A.I.R. and Quisumbing King, K. (Ed.) Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 221-249.



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