Bringing the Summer to a Close – Research Update #6

The process of building a paper that I feel is a meaningful addition to literature critiquing neoliberalism and colonialism has been long and challenging, so in celebration of this research coming to a close I am sharing a segment of my essay’s ‘Discussion’ here that thoroughly explains the project and many of its most essential components:

This research was intent upon exploring how discourse surrounding potential affordable housing projects in Williamsburg and James City County, Virginia may demonstrate the pervasiveness of neoliberal coloniality and expose its potential social implications. Through a review of anonymous opinion pieces submitted to a widely read local paper, the Virginia Gazette, multiple noteworthy patterns in language were revealed. Among respondents who disapproved of proposed construction efforts, vernacular demonstrative of neoliberal values—including the widely circulated troupe of hard work being correlated with financial success—were extremely prevalent. More intriguingly, a significant portion of supporters of affordable housing developments referenced roles in the local economy or employment status more generally as an unofficial expectation of potential residents. Many respondents also showed self-awareness as to their placement in an exploitative class system and the privileges afforded to them as housing secure individuals. When viewed in totality, these findings point to neoliberal coloniality having been dispersed among the populace and influencing a cultural shift in which capitalist productivity has become more valued than personhood. Although these claims may be somewhat surprising at first glance, a more thorough examination of the history of these structures informs the ways in which the contemporary American has been constructed. As discussed previously, neoliberalism and colonialism are all too often reviewed in terms of states or markets without consideration for the influence they have over cultural transformation. Even in rare moments where individualization is addressed, the researchers often overtly focus on only one of these structures rather than their intermingled role—as is the case with Trent Hamann’s exploration of neoliberalism’s impact on personhood (2009). While these studies are necessary and enlightening, they risk failing to critique the dangers of the enmeshed pair and thus the economic system of capitalism from which both were born, and they often support an ill-interpreted definition of hegemony that ignores its deeper consequences. While most explanations of hegemony present it as a dome of dominant ideologies and systems that encapsulates societies and manipulates their discourse, I would argue it is more aptly depicted as the water that fills a fish bowl. If it is successfully actualized, then said hegemony exists not only above us as subjects of its influence but around us and within us as well. The casual language used by ‘Last Word’ respondents that reduces housing insecure individuals to their productivity is exactly this pervasiveness in action.

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