Labor Exploitation and Neoliberal Hegemonic Power Structures

By Ayodeji Richard Olugbuyiro  (Department of Spanish & Portuguese)

The “Worlds in Contention Conference” brought together scholars and audiences from various locations to examine and discuss the impacts of neoliberalism on the world, or better still, the worlds. The idea of a pluralized world is apparent in the presentations since they essentially capture two distinct perspectives in terms of the center and the periphery, or what we can consider the oppressor and the oppressed, or from a geographical standpoint, the West, and the rest. The presentations featured varied time periods ranging from the nineteenth century to contemporary times. And this diversity of time periods helps to reveal the history of Western capitalism, from brutal events such as the transatlantic slave trade, colonization, apartheid, racial genocide, and racial segregation, to contemporary problems like global climate change. The talks further demonstrate how this history continues, albeit in a more subtle manner, even under our “very” conscious twenty-first century eyes. 

The various presentations reveal that the ethos and dynamics of colonialism are what mainly metamorphosed into neoliberalism. And reflecting on my research, which is partly on Portuguese colonialism of Africa and contemporary vestiges of neocolonialism in the Portuguese-speaking world, I see diverse parallels that demonstrate the neoliberal character of this colonialism. For example, in my study of twentieth-century combat poetry in the anti-colonial struggle in former Portuguese African colonies, several of the themes denounced in this poetry are similar to those contested in contemporary arguments against neoliberalism. The theme of labor exploitation for one was predominant in this poetry, and interestingly, we see a reappearance of this theme in a few of the presentations at this conference – in what demonstrates the continuity of unjust colonial dynamics.   Continue reading