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date: 23 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The reduction of human beings into human commodities, or “human capital”—indeed, into labor and nothing but labor—which was the essence of modern slavery, served as a necessary predicate for the consolidation and perfecting of what Marx called “labor in the abstract.” This requires us to re-situate enslaved labor as the defining and constitutive limit for how we comprehend labor as such under capitalism. The production of labor in the abstract, or labor “in general,” depended furthermore upon concrete productions of sociopolitical difference, particularly the branding of race. Analogously, migration provides a key site for contemplating the mobility of labor “as such”—labor “in general,” or labor in the abstract—while simultaneously illustrating precisely how such mobility is inexorably subordinated through the production of spatialized/ racialized difference that arises through the enforcement of (“national”) state borders and immigration law, branding migrant labor as “foreign” if not “illegal.”

Keywords: slavery, race, branding, abstract labor, difference, migrant “illegality”, immigration law, borders

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