Political Economy Seminar | Dracula’s Cold-Chain: Un-death, Degrowth, and a Logistical Theory of Money | Prof Susan Zieger
Political Economy Seminar
Dracula’s Cold-Chain: Un-death, Degrowth, and a Logistical Theory of Money
Presenter: Professor Susan Zieger, University of California, Riverside.
A02, Room 650
When Bram Stoker created the “un-dead” figure of the vampire in his 1897 novel Dracula, he put a supernatural spin on the cold chain – the new refrigerated networks capable of moving meat across the globe, far from the scene of animal slaughter. The novel’s vampiric logistics index new food commodities with artificially extended “shelf lives” known as “perishables.” Dracula’s chilling seductions reflect the queasy allure of modern food detached from land, season, and ordinary lifespans. The novel presents the fear that, bitten by vampiric desire, millions will embody the un-dead aspect of the goods they consume.
Traditionally interpreted as a figure of monopoly capital à la Marx’s vampire, Dracula’s un-dead parasite offers a fresh opportunity to develop a cultural history of logistics, and with it, a logistical theory of money. Applying the concept of demurrage and the framework of degrowth, this talk describes a money form that “rots like potatoes, rusts like iron, and evaporates like ether” in the words of its architect Silvio Gesell. Performing as a medium of exchange rather than as a store of value, this perishable money form revivifies an ecology vampirized by the un-dead regime of global trade that Stoker’s novel depicts.
Dracula image by Julien Tromeur and Global cargo image by Kalyakan on AdobeStock