Sustaining “Hidden Agency”: Epistemic Power Across Space and Time

Authors: Nicholas Jackson*, Ronin Institute
Topics: Global Change, Political Geography, Business Geography
Keywords: extractivism, elite geographies, hegemony, corporate exploitation, academia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 23
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

“Hidden agency” has increasingly become a popular epistemological frame as boundaries among nation-states and economies have become more blurred. I argue that effectively theorizing “hidden agency” is critical for upholding accountability, articulating conspiracy, and adjudicating “civility” against conviviality in a (post-)neoliberal moment of corporate extractivism within a produced space (represented, governed and built) of racialized and gendered inequality. I use the case of intergenerational extraction projects by corporate entities in colonial and postcolonial Nigeria to argue that realities of hidden agency make it necessary not only to employ the best literature available but more importantly to convivially bring in the academy itself. First, administrators and senior academics produce knowledge and as importantly baseline narratives (e.g. “economics'' or “contested politics”) that legitimize particular forms of governance and justify particular forms of corporate exploitation. Second, elite educational institutions serve to sustain hidden agency across generations in what Rodney calls “education for subordination, exploitation, the creation of mental confusion, and the development of underdevelopment.” Third, academic consultants have been valuable members of corporate entities such as Shell, Royal Niger Company and inter-governmental organizations as the leaders responded to the ever-present threat or reality of resistance. Thus, education for legitimization combined with education for corporate control occupies a key place in cultivating border-crossing individuals that exercise power across contested space in the face of resistance within the academy and without.

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