Adjudicating “development”: Transnational US law and the disciplining of debtor states

Adjudicating “development”: Transnational US law and the disciplining of debtor states

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Seminar in Critical Development Studies hosted by Cornell Global Development and the Graduate Field of Development Sociology

Seminar abstract
The extension of US domestic law over the economic activities of foreign governments within and beyond US borders has been an important, but largely overlooked pillar of post-World War II US empire – one that has restricted the sovereignty of post-colonial states and undermined alternative development strategies, while bolstering US capital and helping forge globalization of a certain kind. In this talk, Shaina Potts focuses on the example of the 1980s debt crises to show how expanding US judicial authority worked in tandem with IMF structural adjustment programs to discipline debtor states and entrench neoliberal social relations. This simultaneously strengthened private creditors and a US state newly dependent on Wall St. and US dollar power. The legal architecture produced in this process, moreover, continues to structure sovereign debt dynamics today, hampering efforts at substantial reform or debt relief – even in the context of a global pandemic.

About the speaker
Shaina Potts is an Assistant Professor in the departments of Geography and Global Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work focuses on the intersections of law, capitalism, and geopolitics, with a particular focus on American empire, post-colonial sovereign debt relations, and territoriality.