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Haunting and the other story in Joseph Conrad's Nostromo: global capital and indigenous labor.

Near the end of Nostromo, the privileged passenger is bombarded with "a sudden surfeit of sights, sounds, names, facts" by the self-aggrandizing Captain Joseph Mitchell, whom Conrad ironically describes as taking a pride on "his profound knowledge" of Sulaco (486, 11). Although Conrad scholars usually take Mitchell's pompous rhetoric with a grain of salt, if not outright dismissal, as they should because of their appreciation of how Conradian irony operates through the English captain's narrative, I suggest in this essay that we take seriously one piece of "complicated information," which the captive audience "imperfectly apprehended" (Nostromo 486-87). (1) This particular information in question is, as Mitchell puts it, "how there was 'in this very harbour' [Sulaco] an international naval demonstration, which put an end to the Costaguana-Sulaco War. How the United States cruiser, Powhattan, was the first to salute the Occidental flag" (Nostromo 487, italics original). As one of the novel's multiple narrators, Mitchell here points to the new power structure--U.S. finance capital and U.S. military might--that stands behind the newly independent Sulaco, thus bringing the colonization of Sulaco to a new stage, one in which finance capital, represented by Holroyd of San Francisco, takes a more dominant role. Buried in Mitchell's narrative also is another historical fact indicated by the name of the U.S. battleship, Powhattan, that ironically calls attention to the early North American colonial history and the dispossession of the Native Americans three centuries ago.

The naming of the U.S. battleship as Powhattan in Nostromo is politically significant because invoking the name of the conquered North American tribe suggests a repeated dispossession of the indigenous peoples in Costaguana, Conrad's imaginary country in South America. It also delivers the irony of the conquering Euro-American re-appropriating the name of a conquered Indian tribe, pointing to the history of conquest and colonization. Powhattan with its suggestions of colonial conquest and dispossession of the Native Americans thus becomes my starting point in a new reading of Nostromo that foregrounds the figure of the Indian Other, particularly the invocation and foreclosure of the native miners of the Sulaco silver mine, in Conrad's Eurocentric narrative. The simultaneous invocation and foreclosure of the Indian miners is the political unconscious of the text that seeks to articulate the coming of a new era in Sulaco brought about by the forces of capitalist globalization bent on pursuing "material interests" (Nostromo 84). Meanwhile I also bring together the discourse of globalization, post-colonial studies and Marxist critique of the primitive accumulation of capital through the exploitation of the indigenous natural resources and indigenous labor. Various forms of haunting in Nostromo--the haunting of the silver and the San Tome mine, of Mrs. Gould's watercolor sketch, of the foreclosed miners, and of global capital seeking to create its own image in Sulaco both before and after its independence--enable me to pursue the investigation of the foreclosure of the Indian voices and perspectives on the one hand and that of the encroachment of the finance capital in Sulaco on the other.

Globalization, as we have learned in recent years from scholars studying its origins and evolution, is a long historical process primarily driven by the needs of capital to accumulate wealth for private appropriation, often at a high human cost. Colonization and export of capital are among global capital's modus operandi to expand its economic and geo-political reach in its long history. British historian Eric Hobsbawm characterized the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as "the Age of Empire" (Age 56); writing during this historical period, Joseph Conrad was deeply troubled by the practices of capitalist imperialism. (2) Conrad indicted its inhumanity in his novella, Heart of Darkness (1899), which, despite excess use of blackness to describe the suffering Africans, tersely sums up the atrocities of Belgian colonialism with those memorable words "The horror! The horror!" (149). He followed it later with Nostromo (1904), a political novel that dramatizes the consequences of pursuing "material interests" by finance capital in the fictionalized South American country of Costaguana (378). (3) In Nostromo, Conrad showed his geo-political interest not only in South America, but also in the power the U.S. and Europe exercised there largely through the export of finance capital at the dawn of the twentieth century. That should be of interest to students of globalization and Conrad scholars, because in so doing Conrad had begun to grasp the new development of global capitalism in his time, one featuring the export of finance capital that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin theorized in "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism." (4)

Recently Stephen Ross in Conrad and Empire has also made a similar point, firmly arguing the continued relevance of Conrad's works in today's globalized modernity (1). (5) Ross draws our attention to Conrad's critique of global modernity and imperialist capitalism in his four major novels, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo and The Secret Agent, which as a whole, Ross notes, anticipate the emergence of what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call empire (6-12). (6) Appropriating Hardt and Negri's articulation of empire and the distinction they made between imperialism and empire, as well as the insights of other theorists (ideology critique in Louis Althusser and Slavoj Zizek, Lacanian critique of the law and family romance, Michel Foucault's notion of societal discipline and societal control and the notion of slave morality and master morality developed via Georg Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche), Ross develops a rather sophisticated reading of Nostromo and the three other novels. In doing so, Ross contributed to recent Conrad scholarship by bringing the psychological and the political to the foreground, but his new reading remains Eurocentric. That is, he mainly focused on Kurtz, Jim, Nostromo and the Professor, thus marginalizing, if not excluding, the non-Western others in the novels where the first three characters play an important role and where the colonized others in Africa, South Asia and South America are the essential components in Conrad's vision of the imperialist globalization. (7)

This is especially the case with Nostromo. In his reading, Ross maintains the importance of Nostromo to the novel, first as a law enforcer for the material interests of global capital in his management of the dock workers and then Nostromo's disillusionment from capital's ideological grip, as it is through the Italian sailor, Ross argues, that Conrad offers his critique of global modernity and regimes of control under the new imperial order. In doing so, Ross fails to analyze how the native miners employed by the Gould Concession are also subject to the same process of capitalist/imperial development as the mine and Sulaco. In addition, Ross's analysis focuses largely on the individual and his psyche (Kurtz, Jim, Nostromo, the Professor), family romance and prohibition of the father and the law, and the question of desire and subjectivity under the new imperial order. By contrast, my reading is devoted to the question of labor, class and race under finance capital, thus my attention to the invocation and foreclosure of the native miners of the Gould Concession, which has been overlooked by Ross and many other critics over the years. (8)

What also makes my reading differ from Ross's is that Ross believes that the new imperial and biopolitical order Conrad critiqued in his four major novels is closer to the description of the emerging empire offered by Hardt and Negri, although he does not fully endorse their rather idealist politics (8). (9) Conrad's texts, Ross notes, "function as early detection devices, obliquely registering the impending supersession of imperialism by Empire" (14). In contrast, I argue that the newly emergent social order under the Gould Concession is closer to the working of finance capital that Lenin theorized in "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism," given Conrad's depiction of the construction of a new railway in Sulaco, financed by Holroyd of San Francisco, to serve the Gould Concession. For Lenin, the highest stage of capitalism is imperialism, which means "the rule of finance capital" or "financial oligarchy" (213). During this stage, bank capital became more "decentralized," extending its influence to "a great number of localities, to more remote places, to wider sections of the population" (Lenin 196); Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari would later call this process "deterritorialization" (Thousand 453). Lenin further notes that the global reach of finance capital is manifested in the "development of the railways in colonies and in the independent or semi-independent states of Asia and America" (244). Other Marxist theorists later also develop this spatial characteristic of finance capital. In The Production of Space Henri Lefebvre offers the concept of "abstract space" that can be used to describe Holroyd's financial investment in the Gould Concession: the export of capital around the globe seeking to create more capital by employing foreign labor to create profit for capital accumulation (49). The employment of the Indian miners by the Gould Concession, a salient narrative thread in Nostromo, and their subjugation to the new imperial, biopolitical order, which has been ignored by critics over the years in Conrad scholarship, will be the focus of my essay as I flesh out the natives' role as the material base of the Sulaco mine and their dispossession by finance capital, a material practice David Harvey in The New Imperialism calls "accumulation by dispossession" (147, 149). (10)

In Nostromo, Conrad sought to imagine the production of abstract space in the imaginary Costaguana, which is meant for a composite South American nation, while showing the devastating effects of pursuing "material interests" and pinning one's faith on capitalism (84). The novel, however, shares a similar limiting artistic vision with Heart of Darkness, which, as Chinua Achebe points out in his criticism of Conrad's racism and Western liberalism, lies in Conrad's failure to confer language on the African Other (8,19). (11) Like the Africans, the indigenous miners and their families in Nostromo are mostly denied language, and their history of exploitation and oppression is therefore told by those Europeans who own or manage their labor, or who work for the interest of capital, or the anonymous narrator. In A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Gayatri Spivak calls our attention to the rhetorical and hence ideological use of the invocation and foreclosure of the native informant in Enlightenment philosophy. She argues that the natives as informants had been simultaneously invoked and foreclosed to establish narrative authority by Immanuel Kant, Hegel and Karl Marx (6, 9). (12) In Nostromo, the foreclosure of the indigenous voices and perspectives, I argue, entails the haunting of the natives from the margins of the novel, a haunting that underscores labor as the imperative Other of capital. It is through the haunting of the native miners, both dead and living, in the narrative that one is alerted to Sulaco's colonial and modern imperial history. Haunting of the Indian Other thus takes on significance in Nostromo because of Sulaco's Spanish colonial history and current imperial history that is being written due to the flows of finance capital to Sulaco.

Nineteenth-century North American writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville and Walt Whitman were keenly aware of the problem of the disappearance of the Indians, and sought to engage the issue in their works. (13) Like them, Conrad was also haunted by the figure of the Indian Other. Writing at the dawn of the twentieth century, he knew that the telling of the history of the San Tome mine and of Costaguana is impossible without including the indigenous people, yet he stopped short giving them both a voice and a perspective. "Haunting," as Jacques Derrida writes in Specters of Marx, "belongs to the structure of every hegemony," which in turn is also "haunted by what it attempted to foreclose" (37, 39). Here Derrida understands haunting as the return of the repressed, as the Other that has been foreclosed in a hegemonic discourse. My analysis of the foreclosed Indian miners in Nostromo will show that they are the return of the repressed. That is, although Conrad does not allow them speech and perspectives, they nevertheless return in the discourse of Conrad's European characters who invoke and foreclose them as "native informants" (Spivak 6).

Haunting for Derrida also is a mode of inquiry as he demonstrated in his reading of Hamlet where the appearance of the ghost of the king leads Hamlet to investigate the real cause of his father's death. Like Derrida, Conrad also understands the power of haunting but in a different way; he explores the power of haunting on human psyches as in his representation of the effects of the silver, the mine and Mrs. Gould's watercolor sketch on his characters. That is, Conrad is interested in investigating the psychological effects of haunting on distorting human and social relations. Describing Charles Gould's excess obsession with the mine, he writes, "A man haunted by a fixed idea is insane. He is dangerous even if that idea is an idea of justice" (Nostromo 379).

My analysis of haunting in Nostromo thus has two prongs focusing on discursive and psychological aspects of haunting. The first, which I call discursive haunting, follows Derrida in understanding haunting as the return of the foreclosed Other in a hegemonic discourse. It thus analyzes the symbiotic relationship between foreclosure and haunting in Conrad's representation of the Indian miners of the San Tome mine who are invoked and denied perspectives in Conrad's Eurocentric narrative. Derridas deconstruction project insists on pursuing hauntology to prevent concepts such as use-value from being stabilized as ontology (10, 161). I learned his insight on haunting as a disruptive force undermining the hegemony of the dominant discourse that forecloses its others. More importantly, I scrutinize the discursive haunting of the miners to show them as the irreducible Other of capital. (14)

A major part of this essay thus seeks to uncover this Other story, which despite being glossed over or marginalized in Conrad scholarship is indispensable in accounting for the history of Sulaco and the imaginary South American country. In doing so, I also address the double operation of the invocation and foreclosure of the indigenous voices and perspectives, its consequences for representation and power, and its paradoxical function in marking capital accumulation through the dispossession of the indigenous people. To that end, I examine the production of abstract space in Conrad's imaginary Costaguana and its effects on the indigenous inhabitants. Equally importantly, I scrutinize the psychological effects of haunting in the narrative to show that such effects can, in the last analysis, be linked to the specter of global capital seeking to colonize the South American country and exploit its natural resources and indigenous labor.

Thus, I also understand haunting in the traditional psychological sense. Moreover, my analysis of psychological haunting focusing on the language of haunting in Conrad's narrative seeks to show the dialectic relations between the psyche and the material forces of life. In my view, the language of haunting in Nostromo needs to be explained through the material conditions of production that give form and content to it. This is what Marx meant when he wrote in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy that: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness" (21). For example, the key to explain the psyches of the Goulds lies in the specter of finance capital that not only dominates all aspects of life in Sulaco but also helps destroy their marriage as Charles gradually shuts himself off from Emilia because of his excess obsession with the mine.

In his oeuvre, Conrad has shown a persistent fascination with the psychological effects of haunting. (15) From his early work such as Almayer's Folly (1895), The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897) to his imperial romance Lord Jim (1900), the protagonist is either haunted by the ghost of the past or has a haunting effect on others. In Nostromo, the scale of haunting has been expanded to include both the personal and the national. In this political novel, haunting has become the primary force driving the narrative. In the opening chapter, a poetic of haunting is in the making with Conrad setting the stage by sketching the history of Sulaco. A port town, Sulaco is still haunted by its Spanish colonial history and a local legend involving two gringos believed to be still "spectral and alive" guarding the forbidden gold treasure they had discovered and died for on the secluded peninsula of Azuera (Nostromo 5). The haunting history and legend are further accentuated by the haunting shadows floating in the sky, cast upon the windless gulf or cast by the snow-capped mountains until the rising sun drives them away. As the jumping, disorienting and time-shifting narrative unfolds, speciality begins to take the center stage: Gould senior and his son Charles Gould are psychologically haunted by the ideality of the San Tome mine (the mine as an idea) and Esmeralda rebel Colonel Sotillo and Nostromo by the materiality of the silver (the silver itself) while the natives, the material base of the mine, are discursively haunting the narratives on the mine from the margins.


Conrad goes to great lengths to portray psychologically the haunting effects of the mine and the silver on his characters. Charles Gould's father, who was forced by the corrupt government to purchase the San Tome mine, dies under the "mere shadow" of the mine, which "had been enough to crush the life out of [him]" (Nostromo 148). The "mine-ridden" Gould senior thus dies believing that the mine, as the embodiment of injustice and persecution, is a "poison" he is forced to swallow and a "curse" to which he is eternally doomed (Nostromo 55, 57). The capacity of the mine to haunt the elder Gould, contributing to his paralysis and death, shows the irony that it can destroy him with its "mere shadow" (Nostromo 148). For the son, the mine in the beginning is a source of enchantment despite the father's persistent warnings against it. The mine has over time "got hold of Charles Gould with a grip as deadly as ever it had laid upon his father" (Nostromo 400). Moreover, the mine begins to cast its shadow on his marriage, causing it to disintegrate and transforming him into a mechanic, cold-blooded human being. On the eve of the rebels' attack, Emilia Gould comes to realize with horror that the mine that begins simply as "an idea" in Charles's mind has become "a fetish" with "a monstrous and crushing weight" (Nostromo 221).

Unlike the Gould father and son who are excessively obsessed with the mine as an idea, Sotillo and Nostromo are insanely interested in the silver ingots because of their material worth. Sotillo, the indigenous colonel who falls victim to Dr. Monygham's deception scheme premised on the "shadow of the treasure," becomes deranged during his fruitless efforts to fish the silver ingots which he was led to believe to have been sunken under the Sulaco harbor (Nostromo 410). Even Nostromo, the designated spokesperson of the people, cannot escape from being enthralled by the silver. Later he takes possession of the Gould silver ingots put under his protection on the eve of the Sulaco revolt, and becomes so obsessed with them that he literally becomes their slave. Conrad actually used the word, slave, several times to emphasize Nostromo's enslavement to the silver in Chapter 12 of Part Three: The Lighthouse. For example, he wrote, "The slave of the San Tome silver felt the weight as of chains upon his limbs, a pressure as of a cold hand upon his lips. He struggled against the spell" (Nostromo 539).

While the Goulds are freed from commodity fetishism, with the father worried to death by the thought of having to manage the mine and the son obsessed with the mine as an idea, the excess obsession with the silver, the thing itself, drives Sotillo and Nostromo to insanity and paralysis respectively. Conrad's emphasis on the psychological effects of haunting the mine and the silver have on the human psyches, however, may help contribute to obscuring the social and labor relations that underlie the Sulaco society and enable the production of wealth for capital accumulation. What fetishism of commodity obscures, as Marx shows in his analysis of commodity in Capital, is the dead or congealed labor expended in the production (135-36). Labor as "the creator of use-values," as Marx insightfully notes, is "a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society" and "an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself" (Capital 133). I will take up the issue of indigenous labor and its role as the material base of the Sulaco mine later when I discuss the invocation and foreclosure of the native miners and the way in which they discursively haunt at the margins of Conrad's Eurocentric narrative.

In order for the analysis to be historical and material, it is necessary to go beyond the frame of psychoanalysis and make visible the dialectic interactions between the psyche and the historical and material conditions. As Fredric Jameson reminds us, "the structure of the psyche is historical" (Political 62). Thus in the analysis of the haunting of the mine and the silver, I foreground the historical and material forces of global capital making its inroads in Sulaco. To this end, Mrs. Gould's watercolor sketch of the San Tome gorge and its haunting effects on her and her husband will allow me to make visible the dialectic interactions between the psyche and the material forces of capital. That is, the psychological haunting of the painting, the mine and the silver, I argue, cannot be separated from the specter of global capitalism colonizing Costaguana and Sulaco. After all, it is the investment of the Holroyd capital in the Gould Concession that allows for the reopening of the mine and the development of Sulaco that inevitably leads to the destruction of its environment and landscape.

The nonlinear unfolding of Nostromo often disorients and confuses the first-time reader not expecting the time-shift method of the narrative. Cedric Watts, who is among those who have untangled and re-chronicled Conrad's analeptic narrative, notes that as Conrad's time-shift method throws us about from one time to another by grafting one incident onto the ongoing scene, what remains constant is the scenic background that helps reorient readers in the course of the narrative's "convolutions and abruptness" (Preface 156-57). To the natural scenic fixtures, Mt. Higuerota and Golfo Placido, which Watts has identified, one can add the watercolor painted by Mrs. Gould on the mountain gorge before its development for the silver mine and hung upon the white walls of the Gould house. The natural scenery and the sketch have a haunting effect on Sulaco, the major characters as well as the reader. Moreover, emanating from the watercolor and the natural scenes is the specter of global capitalism. Represented by the alliance between the mine, the American financier Holroyd, the British railway and steamships that serve the mine, global capital is actively involved in transforming national and local politics in Costaguana as well as its landscape.


John D. Barbour, writing on the indifference of nature in Nostromo, comments that "the snowy dome of Higuerota" surfaces many times in the narrative, "always silently dominating the petty conflicts of humankind" (122). Unlike Barbour, I think that nature in Nostromo is more than indifferent and that the domination of the snow-capped Higuerota is more than silent. In effect, the snow-capped mountain exerts a haunting effect on its viewers, commanding their gaze and attention, because of the silver mine it houses. It is constantly in the background of the novel, observed from afar by the main European characters or described laboriously by the narrator, haunting their consciousness as well as that of the reader. In the opening chapter of "The Silver of the Mine," the anonymous narrator describes "the shadow" passing through the snows of the mountain (Nostromo 5-6). Giorgio Viola, the Italian inn keeper at Sulaco, looks up at the "snowy dome of Higuerota" on the day of the riot by the rebels whose aim is to seize the control of the mine and the Custom House (Nostromo 26). When Sir John, the chairman of the British railway company, first arrives at Sulaco to survey the new local railroad project, the mountain becomes his object of gaze, haunting him as he ponders over the difficulty of conquering it to facilitate the construction of a new railway that will tunnel under it to serve the Gould mine (Nostromo 41). The "white, misty sheen of Higuerota" is within Nostromo's view, intruding on his consciousness shortly after he comes to see he has been betrayed by the Sulaco European elite, intensifying his sense of betrayal and alienation (Nostromo 418). After Sulaco's independence is aided by American finance capital and American military intervention, the mountain that houses the silver treasure, the narrator says, casts its "gigantic shadow" upon Sulaco's marketplace, symbolically still haunting the town and its people (Nostromo 474). Higuerota's "gigantic shadow" with its haunting effects thus helps point out the specter of global capitalism that is haunting the Goulds, the mine and Sulaco (Nostromo 474).

The snowy San Tome gorge, meanwhile, symbolically functions as a sort of white wall that figuratively covers up the black hole that is the silver mine. In Chapter 6 of Part One: The Silver of the Mine, this larger white wall fades away, and in its place appear the "plastered white walls" of the Casa Gould (Nostromo 70). This close-up of the Goulds' white walls and then specifically of the watercolor sketch by Mrs. Gould has three-fold significance. First, the painting helps narrate an essential part of the history of the San Tome mine. That is, as the narrative moves from the snow-capped Higuerota to the painting, the spatial transformation of the mountain by the operation of the Gould Concession is being told. Second, the focus on the sketch brings to the fore the San Tome mine that has become a black hole, plaguing its workers and owners alike. Critics have often observed that the psychological effects of the "impenetrable" and "inhospitable" Golfo Placido on Martin Decoud and Nostromo contribute to their sense of alienation and to Decoud's suicide, when they are stranded in the isolated island of Great Isabel in their aborted mission to smuggle the silver ingots out of Sulaco on the eve of the rebels' attack (Barbour, Tragedy 123). Conrad, I would like to suggest, explores the Goulds' psyches through Mrs. Gould's painting and its effect on them. Moreover, the painting with its uncanny power to haunt the couple's psyches helps reveal the consequences of relentlessly pursuing a "fixed" idea as Charles does in his unwavering determination to run the Gould Concession at any cost (Nostromo 379). Third, the painting helps mark the footprints of foreign capital in Sulaco in the name of development, progress and prosperity while expanding the production of abstract space in which indigenous labor is being exploited for capital accumulation.

Mrs. Gould's watercolor sketch of the San Tome Mountain is one of the silent on-lookers in the novel, bearing witness to the changes in landscape brought about by the Gould Concession. Hung "alone" upon the "plastered white walls" of the Gould House, the sketch in its black wooden frame helps to preserve a scene of a waterfall that has ceased to exist (Nostromo 209, 70, 106). When she and her husband first gaze upon the "jungle-grown solitude of the gorge," they observe "the thread of a slender waterfall flashed bright and glassy through the dark green of the heavy fronds of tree-ferns" (Nostromo 105). Yet this memorable scene no longer exists after the mine under Charles's ownership goes into production, producing in the process "the refuse of excavations and tailings," and after the waterfall is dammed up to produce hydro-power for the mine (Nostromo 106). Now, only the memory of the waterfall with its amazing fernery is preserved by the watercolor sketch. The waterfall in the sketch marks a time when the gorge is still "the very paradise of snakes" (Nostromo 105). It is some time before Charles Gould reopens the mine by clearing the wilderness, paving the road and cutting the new paths up the cliff face of San Tome, measures that fundamentally change the landscape (Nostromo 106).

The painting, on the other hand, haunts the couple psychologically, commanding their attention and gaze. On the eve of Sulaco's siege, it helps make them become conscious for the first time of how far apart they have grown regarding their goal for the mine since they agreed to build their married life together around the enterprise. They also begin to register the grave consequences of redeveloping the mine after its years of neglect and mismanagement. When they discuss the fate of the mine, both are drawn to the picture, directing their gaze at it. For Mrs. Gould, it signifies her desire to have left the mine alone. "Gazing" at the watercolor sketch, Emilia confesses to Charles that "Ah, if we had left it alone, Charley!" (Nostromo 209). Charles, however, rebuffs her, replying, "No, it was impossible to leave it alone" (Nostromo 209). Moreover, he goes on to remind Emilia, while "wav[ing] his hand towards the small water-colour," that "it is not now as it was when you made that sketch" and that "It is no longer a Paradise of snakes. We have brought mankind into it, and we cannot turn our backs upon them to go and begin a new life elsewhere" (Nostromo 209). For Charles, the painting strengthens his resolve not to turn back after having disturbed the "many snakes" (Nostromo 209). Here Charles also economically summarizes the logic of capital: once set in motion, it cannot afford to stand still. Thus, the Goulds are haunted by the watercolor sketch and by the material interests of the capitalist drive for profits. Earlier Mrs. Gould is also haunted by the ghosts of the native miners who had perished in the mine during the Spanish colonial rule.

The painting, which reveals the growing divisions between the couple, continues to haunt Charles after the rebels seize Sulaco. He consciously directs and fixes his gaze at it while recounting to Dr. Monygham his meeting with the rebel leader Pedrito Montero in which he makes it known that his personal safety is tied to the mine. "I tried to make him [Montero] see that the existence of the mine was bound up with my personal safety," says Charles (Nostromo 407). As he says those words to Dr. Monygham, the narrator tells us, Charles looks away from the doctor, "fixing his eyes upon the watercolor sketch upon the wall" (Nostromo 407). As Charles unusually breaks his trademark silence on the politics of Sulaco, blasting "[liberty, democracy, patriotism, government," which all have a "flavor of folly and murder" to him, he continues "gazing at the sketch of the San Tome gorge upon the wall" (Nostromo 408). Charles's sustained gaze at the painting thus magnifies the passions the mine stirs up in him. His passions for the mine are such that they have replaced the love he once had for Emilia before taking on the task to redevelop the mine, cutting himself off from an intimate husband-wife relationship. From Charles's excess obsession with the mine, Martin Decoud, a passionate lover himself seeking Antonia Avellanos's affection, sagaciously surmises: "The little woman [Mrs. Gould] has discovered that he [her husband] lives for the mine rather than for her" (Nostromo 245). At this moment, it becomes clear that the painting is a stand-in for the mine that has become a demon lover controlling Charles's life and turning him into a rather mechanic and unresponsive human being.

The watercolor sketch, which captures a scenic moment before the Gould mine goes into production, also reminds the reader of the transformation brought about by capital that ruthlessly tears down anything standing in its way in the name of development, progress and prosperity. It bears witness to the physical and environmental transformation of the mountain. The gorge is being disfigured and polluted to develop the mine and to install devices of "wooden shoots" that send down the silver ingots to stamp sheds where the ingots are "stamped" before being transported to their market destinations (Nostromo 100, 135). The disfigured and polluted scenes marked now by the "pale gold dust" also mark the colonization of Costaguana by the international brotherhood of capital--a money nexus between the mine, the railway, the shipping company and finance capital (Nostromo 394). The painting that haunts the Goulds is in turn haunted by the specter of global capitalism exploiting nature and indigenous labor in its expansion of abstract space to accumulate capital.

Moreover, in Nostromo there is another type of haunting, one that is paradoxically produced, as Derrida says of the symbiotic relationship between haunting and foreclosure, by the foreclosure of the native perspective in a narrative dominated by the Europeans. Yet this foreclosure also marks capitalism's modus operandi, accumulation by dispossession, which Harvey identifies as the constant feature of global capitalism (145-52). Now I turn to discursive haunting and the invocation and foreclosure of the indigenous miners as "native informants" who as the material base of the Sulaco mine have been largely slighted in Conrad scholarship (Spivak 6). (16)


Political readings of Conrad's Nostromo have often focused on its major Creole and European characters and their involvement in the Sulaco politics fueled by the wealth of the reputed San Tome silver mine. Exemplary of this is Fredric Jameson's reading of Nostromo in The Political Unconscious. Using the insight of Algirdas Greimas's semiotic rectangle, which is organized around binary oppositions and, in his view, can be re-worked to allow for materialist dialectical criticism, Jameson offers a sophisticated reading of the impossibility of representing History or, more specifically, a historical event in Nostromo: Nostromo and Decoud's mission to ship the Sulaco silver out of the war-torn region (47). Jameson's reading, structured around Nostromo as the Self and his association with Giorgio Viola and Decoud as the Ideal and his association with Charles Gould and the mine, however fails to include as subjects of history the indigenous miners whose exploited labor paves the way for the coming of an emerging genuine capitalist society (269-80). When critics discuss indigenous people, the spotlight is often on their corrupt leaders who hijack the cause of their people to achieve personal gain. (17) The novel's nonlinear narrative with unexpected shifts in time and place has also led to analyses centering on its major European narrators as informants and the inido leaders whose rise and fall mark the tumultuous history of Costaguana scarred by a series of military coups. (18) The muteness of the indigenous people even escapes those critics examining language in Nostromo. For example, Cathy Brigham glossed over the silence of the indigenous people even though she sought to analyze how the characters in Nostromo were being betrayed by both language and silence (157). The focused examinations of those European characters and narrators have no doubt contributed to our understanding of the novel's complexity and depth, as well as Conrad's political views. But they were done in ways that have marginalized at best the poorer leperos including Indians, "Negroes" and mestizos who combine to make the bulk of the Sulaco population. More importantly, those Eurocentric analyses have systematically glossed over the Indian miners who had long been the material base of the San Tome mine both during and after Spanish colonialism. This is a glaring omission given that there will not be any capital accumulation without their labor.

Conrad's conception of Nostromo, built around "Latin and Anglo-Saxon" characters, thus marginalizes the non-Europeans, above all those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder ("Author's" xi). His authorial intention to have Nostromo, meaning "our man," as "a romantic mouthpiece of'the people'" only helps reinforce the marginalization of the people, creating an irony that the represented are rendered silent, without being given political agency (Watts, Letters 157). Although some critics mentioned the natives' role in the labor unrest brewing in the newly independent Sulaco at the end of the novel, none has yet scrutinized how the Indian miners operate in the novel's modernist experimental narrative, which Jakob Lothe describes as analeptic for its jarring movement in time and place. Structurally speaking, the miners of an unnamed Indian tribe are framed outside what Christopher GoGwilt calls the "contending genealogies of an imaginary European political heritage projected onto the fictional Costaguana and momentarily united in the formation of the Occidental Republic [Sulaco]" (201). Consequently, GoGwilt notes, they are a "problematic collectivity" that never directly achieves political representation (206). The European political logic imposed on the fictional Costaguana, thus, forecloses the possibility of granting agency to the indigenous people of Sulaco. Yet they intrude on the reader's consciousness from time to time in the analeptic narrative when being invoked to play their part in the making of Sulaco history, only not to be given any perspectives.

The miners of the Gould Concession are what Spivak calls "native informants," the marginal and marginalized figures who are simultaneously invoked and foreclosed in Western Enlightenment discourse (49, 62, 89, 110). For example, in her reading of Kant's Critique of Judgment, Spivak demonstrates that Kant invokes the inhabitants of New Hollanders (Australia) and Tierra del Fuego while contemplating the final cause of human existence in nature, only to exclude them from being human subjects, which is reserved for bourgeois subjects endowed with reason, culture and morality (26, 30, 32). Thus, what the figure of the native informant in Kant paradoxically discloses is the hidden structure of the invocation and foreclosure of the natives who function to consolidate Kant's perspective, establishing his authority over the representation. This is also the case in Nostromo. The Indian miners are included in the narrative, discoursed by the European characters, but are precluded from becoming subjects of speech or narrating any part of Nostromo. Of the novel's multiple perspectives, including those of Captain Mitchell, Martin Decoud, Mrs. Gould and, of course, the anonymous narrator, none is given to the miners who nevertheless are the foundation of the mine and the source of the profit that has financed a number of "corrupt revolutions" and propped up corrupt comprador governments (Nostromo 163). The irony of having Nostromo represent the people, as I have pointed out, is that the miners are being simultaneously invoked and excluded.

In what follows, I use the term "native informant" to highlight Nostromos hidden narrative structure, or its political unconscious: the simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of the racial Other (Spivak, Critique 6). Moreover, I explore the symbiotic relationship between haunting and foreclosure. I argue that the foreclosure entails the haunting of the native miners in the discourse of the European characters with some doubling as narrators and informants, and that the haunting in turn exposes both the primitive accumulation of capital and the modern accumulation by dispossession articulated by Marx and Harvey respectively. (19)

Conrad does not withhold history from the indigenous miners of Sulaco but only offers them a truncated version that starts with Spanish colonialism exploiting their forced labor. Moreover, the history of their exploitation and oppression during and after the Spanish rule and their current history under the Gould Concession are told by those who own or manage the mine and those who serve the material interests of foreign capital in Sulaco, in addition to the narrator. It is through Mrs. Gould that the history of the mine is being told. Mrs. Gould, who "knew the history of the San Tome mine" through her marriage to Charles, a third-generation Costaguanan of British descent, relates that the mine in its colonial days was worked by "means of lashes on the backs of slaves" (Nostromo 52). The old mine with a primitive method is shut down after failing to produce "a profitable return," but not before "[w]hole tribes of Indians" have perished (Nostromo 52). According to her account, the mines revival comes after the War of Independence (from the Spanish rule) when a British company acquires the right to work its veins, turning the natives into "paid miners" (Nostromo 52). The miners in her account are the "native informants," who are invoked and foreclosed at the same time to display Mrs. Gould's compassion and humanity. Her account as a whole, however, performs an ideological service for the Gould Concession by treating the issue of class exploitation as coming to an end when the miners become paid workers, which is not the case from the Marxist perspective. In light of Sulaco's socioeconomic structure, which depends on the labor of the miners to create wealth for the Goulds, Mrs. Gould thus helps to obscure the exploitation of the "paid miners" despite her acknowledgment that the unpaid miners have perished in the mine during the Spanish colonial rule. Moreover, she assumes that the primitive accumulation of capital ends with Spanish colonialism and that the Gould Concession starts with a clean slate. But as Harvey argues, accumulation by dispossession in its various forms is the constant feature of capitalist mode of production (137-82). He also notes that state powers, finance capital and institutions of credit are the forces that bind together "the umbilical cord" between accumulation by dispossession and expanded reproduction (Harvey 152).

Although she is a figure of compassion often associated with the statue of Madonna with a crowned child on her arm, Mrs. Gould's compassion is Janusfaced (Parry 101). While she runs hospitals and schools for the well-being of the poor, she also actively participates in Sulaco's political and social scenes, working for the mine's material interests. Moreover, her compassion is compromised by the hospitality and kindness she extends as the "first lady of Sulaco" to both corrupt government leaders and foreign investors and engineers involved in the development of the Sulaco mine and railway ("Author's" xi; Nostromo 561). Rebecca Carpenter, analyzing the gaps between imperial rhetoric and imperial practices in Nostromo, argues that Mrs. Gould, despite her compassion and charity work for the miners and the poor, is complicit with Charles and his business and political allies in exploiting the workers. Carpenter, in discussing British women's role in maintaining the British Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth century, also describes women like Mrs. Gould as '"kinder, gentler' imperialists" for their participation in the colonization of the native population despite their moral convictions to help them (84). Her analysis of Mrs. Gould as one of the "maternal imperialists," a phrase coined by Barbara N. Ramusack, thus brings into focus the profitable use of gender by imperialism (Carpenter, "Naivete" 88; Ramusack, "Cultural" 133). Her charity work, as Carpenter argues, is the front to legitimate imperial exploitation as the running of the hospitals, schools and other charities depends on the profits of the mine.

Mrs. Gould's narrative, meanwhile, contains an official account of the miners' struggle against their British management after the independence. She relays this information documented in an official publication, Diario Official, saying the government formed after the miners' revolt duly acknowledged their cause as just (Nostromo 52). But the government also condemned them for acting out of gain rather than out of love of the country, thus creating the pretext for confiscating the mine as a "national property" (Nostromo 53). Significantly, this official account appropriates the cause of the indigenous rebellion to justify the government's own action to confiscate the mine. It also conducts an ideological maneuver by misrepresenting the struggle of the miners against the owner as one fighting against "oppression of foreigners" (Nostromo 52). In so doing, it displaces class struggle onto struggles against foreigners and thus distorts class antagonism as antagonism against foreigners (racial difference) as if with their own people the issue of class exploitation would not exist for the miners. By repeating this official account, Mrs. Gould helps contain the workers' class struggle. To the extent that the history of the Indian workers is being told by the ruling and owning classes, the issue of class exploitation is conveniently bracketed, as if it were nonexistent. Mrs. Gould's telling of the San Tome mine's history thus is less about revealing the brutal history against the Indians than about making a justification for the Gould Concession. In so doing, she appears to condemn the primitive accumulation of capital under Spanish colonialism but sanctions the modern accumulation by dispossession by the Gould Concession.

On the other hand, in foreclosing the perspective of the native miners, Conrad simultaneously and paradoxically opens up space for them to haunt in the narrative and discourse of other European characters, with some doubling as narrators. The hidden narrative structure of the "native informant," or what I have called discursive haunting, thus prevails in the novel.

The narrative introducing Don Pepe as the governor of the mine relies on the invocation and foreclosure of the native miners and their families as well. To accentuate the "vein of genuine humanity" in Don Pepe, the narrative focuses on his sharp observation of the mining population under his charge (Nostromo 99). Unlike Mrs. Gould who cannot tell one native from another as they all seem to her to carry "the same ancestral mould of suffering and patience," Don Pepe is described as having an extraordinary ability to know the miners of over six hundred "individually," or "all the innumerable Joses, Manuels, Ignacios" (Nostromo 100). He does this by classifying them according to their skin tones. The narrative says that he knows them so well that he can "distinguish them not only by their flat, joyless faces [...], but apparently also by the infinitely graduated shades of reddish-brown, of blackish-brown, of coppery-brown backs" (Nostromo 100). Don Pepes interest in the difference in the color shades of the miners may say something about his fascination about the differences among the natives. But it may also point to his class and racial anxiety. His anxiety can be seen in his need to "girt with a great sword" and to wear a uniform, though a "shabby" one "with tarnished bullion epaulettes of a senior major," as he walks about "precipitous paths" up in the mountain (Nostromo 99). (20) The act of classifying the racial Other, however, reveals the hidden anxiety of the narrative to contain the Other, as it represents Don Pepe as a thinking subject who directs the white gaze at the objectified indigenous population. The act of classification thus is at once a form of domination and of containment of the racial Other.

Don Pepes prolonged gaze directed at the miners taking a break from work also is an act of class management. As the narrative says of the miners of two shifts under his attentive watch:

stripped to linen drawers and leather skull-caps, mingled together with a confusion of naked limbs, of shouldered picks, swinging lamps, in a great shuffle of sandalled feet on the open plateau before the entrance of the main tunnel. It was a time of pause [...]. The heads of gangs, distinguished by brass medals hanging on their bare breasts, marshalled their squads; and at last the mountain would swallow one half of the silent crowd, while the other half would move off in long files down the zigzag paths leading to the bottom of the gorge. (Nostromo 100-01)

This detailed description of the miners between shifts on their working day, as much as it demonstrates Don Pepe's ability to observe humanity, also discloses the bodies of the workers disciplined by the grueling demands of mining and the coercive power of capital that exploits and dominates them. (21) As Michel Foucault writes in Discipline and Punish, workshops are among the institutions that utilize disciplinary power to produce "subjected and practiced bodies, 'docile' bodies," and the instrument used by the worker helps mold the working body into a docile and utilitarian one (138, 145, 153). Foucault maintains that "disciplinary power" appears to be a "coercive link with the apparatus of production" (153). The San Tome mine thus not only produces silver for the Euro-American market and wealth for its owner and investors, but also disciplined and docile bodies out of its native miners. And they are so disciplined and docile that they act like soldiers as they "move off in long files" after work (Nostromo 100).

The governor of the mine also extends his class management to the miners' children and their families. As with the miners he knows so well, Don Pepe, the narrator says, seems "able, with one attentive, thoughtful glance, to classify each woman, girl, or growing youth of his domain" (Nostromo 102). His imperial eyes would also enable him to ascertain the parentage of the "brown children," and should it fail, by his "searching questions" (Nostromo 102). Don Pepe's enormous interest in the mining population under his charge thus foregrounds the importance of labor as the Other of capital.

The structure of the native informant, or discursive haunting, is also operating in Captain Mitchell's narrative on the "historical events" that led to the formation of the Occidental Republic, which is expanding its abstract space, transforming itself in the image of foreign capital (Nostromo 473). While recounting how the Indian miners led by Don Pepe rescued Charles Gould before his execution ordered by the rebel Pedrito Montero, Mitchell tells a "privileged passenger," a virtual captive audience on a tour of the newly independent Sulaco, that:

the miners of San Tome, all Indians from the Sierra, rolling by like a torrent to the sound of pipes and cymbals, green flags flying, a wild mass of men in white ponchos and green hats, on foot, on mules, on donkeys. Such a sight, sir, will never be seen again. The miners, sir, had marched upon the town, Don Pepe leading on his black horse, and their very wives in the rear on burros, screaming encouragement, sir, and beating tambourines. (Nostromo 476-77)

Here Conrad again denies voice to the indigenous people and instead has Captain Mitchell tell their participation in that "historic event."

Captain Mitchell's interest in Sulacos history and Goulds rescue, however, is personal. His interest in the Sulaco mine goes beyond his employment with the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, which delivers the silver to overseas markets. It grows out of his holding of "seventeen of the thousand-dollar shares in the Consolidated San Tome mines" (Nostromo 475). His (class) interest in the mine does not end when he retires from the shipping company and returns to England. His relatively comfortable retirement outside London depends on the seventeen shares of the San Tome mine he owns, the narrator reports (Nostromo 504). In other words, the surplus labor of the miners will help pay for Mitchell's investment and thus his retirement. His case as a small investor of the mine illustrates the hidden connection between labor and financial investment, made invisible by the ups and downs of the stock market. It also highlights how the newly independent Sulaco is more subjugated to foreign capital than ever before. After all, it is the military power of the United States that intervenes on behalf of the Holroyd finance powerhouse of San Francisco to help install the government of the new state. "[T]he United States cruiser, Powhattan, was the first to salute the Occidental flag" after staging "an international naval demonstration, which put an end to the Costaguana-Sulaco war," Mitchell narrates (Nostromo 487). Holroyd's influence in the newly minted country goes beyond his financial investment in the mine. He also stages a "Protestant invasion of Sulaco" by seeking to proselytize the natives with his Holroyd Missionary Fund, competing with Catholicism for the hearts and minds of the "wild Indians" (Nostromo 509, 508).

Conrad's representation of the native miners without turning them into subjects of speech or having them occupy the position of narrators recalls to mind Edward Said's critique of Orientalism (Carpenter 91). In the Orientalist mode of representation, the West, Said notes, is often the actor, observing, studying, documenting and representing the native subjects: it is a representation without giving agency to the represented (6). Similarly, Conrad's depiction of Costaguana relies on his European characters and narrators who inform by observing, studying and classifying the indigenous people, but without conferring language on them. Furthermore, those observing informants (Mrs. Gould, Don Pepe and others) are often described as having "humanity"--an attribute that is never ascribed to their objects of observation, the indigenous people. The political consequence of such a representation is that the major European characters/narrators who rule them on behalf of capital will need to discourse about them and speak on their behalf without representing their real class interest.


The construction of a new Sulaco railroad provides another instance in which Conrad forecloses the indigenous perspectives and indigenous history prior to Spanish colonialism. Although they have no say in the new project that will result in their dislocation and the disruption of their cultural life, the natives nonetheless are conveniently invoked by the Europeans to express their own sentiment about the project sought by Charles Gould and financed by Holroyd. At a ceremony on a steamboat, Mrs. Gould expresses to Sir John of the British railway company her sentiment about the dramatic change that will come following the construction of the new railway. She reports seeing one day "an Indian boy ride out of a wood with the red flag of a surveying party in his hand," and that the sight causes her to feel "something of a shock" and to realize that "[t]he future means change--an utter change" (Nostromo 120). Earlier during a conversation with Sir John, Mrs. Gould also laments the impending loss of a religious building from the Spanish colonial era to make way for the new railway. As she tells Sir John, "we are very proud of it. It used to be historically important. The highest ecclesiastical court, for two viceroyalties, sat here in the olden time" (Nostromo 35). Here the expression "the olden time" gives away Mrs. Gould's (and Conrad's) notion of Sulaco history. It shows that she subscribes to a European understanding of South American history as cut off from pre-Columbus indigenous history that was made popular by the travel writings of Alexander von Humboldt, who helped create a British investment boom and bust in Mexico in silver mining with his Political Essays (Pratt 131, 136). As Mary Louise Pratt observes, the reinvention of South America as "a primal world of nature" and a "new continent" not only naturalizes colonial rules and racial hierarchy but also deprives the indigenous peoples of their history, which in the European imagination only begins with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors (126, 130).

In response to Mrs. Gould's lament, Sir John murmurs: "We can't give you your ecclesiastical court back again; but you shall have more steamers, a railway, a telegraph-cable--a future in the great world which is worth infinitely more than any amount of ecclesiastical past" (Nostromo 36). Here Sir John not only displays the European foreclosure of indigenous history but also uses what he sees as the backwardness of Sulaco as a justification for its development, thus capitals colonization of it. In stating the positive effect that modern technology will have on the old ways of life, he deploys what Pratt calls an "anti-conquest" discourse, by which "European bourgeois subjects seek to secure their innocence in the same moment as they assert European hegemony" (7). (22) In theorizing anti-conquest discourse, Pratt also points to the figure of the "seeing man" whose "imperial eyes passively look out and possess" (7). Sir John thus can be said to fit in her description of the figure of the "seeing-man" in the "anti-conquest" representation (Pratt 7, 39, 60).

Mrs. Goulds misgivings about the coming change do not lead her to intervene to save the Indian land from being encroached by the railway company, although she intervenes on Viola's behalf to save his cafe from the same fate. The indigenous inhabitants of Sulaco, as Carpenter also points out, are not given a voice to express their views on how the arrival of the railway will change their way of life (88, 90). On the contrary, Conrad not only has Mrs. Gould express her sentiment on behalf of the natives, but also has Charles Gould speak for them. The construction of the new railway will also make a popular Indian gathering site disappear. One day Charles, who wants the railway for the mine, sits in his carriage and observes a scene that will soon disappear just like the waterfall in the San Tome gorge: the scene of Indian women selling their food and music on the open market. This episode, I would argue, both discloses and elides the structure of accumulation by dispossession. The land on which this scene takes place belongs now to Sir John's railway company; it has been commodified as a private property that will be off limits to the indigenous inhabitants. Charles, whom Conrad portrays as a man of few words, nevertheless comments that "[tjhere will be no more popular feasts held here" (Nostromo 123). Yet Charles's sentimental comment, while disclosing the structure of accumulation by dispossession, ends up eliding it by leaving it at that, accepting the expropriation of the indigenous land as the outcome of progress and development. So the narrative shows that the indigenous people have no say on this significant local event and that those who benefit the most do the talking for them. Despite Conrad's authorial intention to have Nostromo speak for the people, the lack of indigenous voices and indigenous self-representation thus is the political unconscious of the text, producing what I maintain is an unintended irony. (23)


The analysis of the foreclosure of the indigenous people as subjects of speech and narrators inevitably brings up this essential question: "Can the subaltern speak?" (Spivak 270). Within the ideological horizon of Nostromo, the answer is clearly that they cannot, not because they cannot speak for themselves but because Conrad's representation does not allow them the political agency to advocate directly their indigenous rights and freedoms and to critique the political-economic system that exploits their surplus labor and destroys their indigenous space in the name of prosperity, progress and development. Thus, they need to be represented by others, specifically by the owning and political classes of Sulaco, their supporters, Nostromo (the representative of the people) and the narrator. As the analysis of the simultaneous invocation and foreclosure of the indigenous people as "informants" by the Goulds and their officials has shown, the double operation is performed to maintain the class interests of the owning classes or the world system of accumulation by dispossession. The haunting of the indigenous miners and their families in the narrative thus is a sign that they are the irreducible Other of capital. While Captain Mitchell believes that Sulaco would be nothing without the Gould Concession, it is more accurate to say, from the Marxist perspective, that without the surplus labor of the miners, the mine is nothing (Nostromo 477). The reification of the mine, as I have noted, obscures the social and labor relations in Sulaco.

The foreclosure of the indigenous perspectives, on the other hand, makes it imperative that Conrads analysis and critique of material interests be rendered through the comments made by the major European characters. In his dying confession to Mrs. Gould, Nostromo again chides the rich for robbing the people. "The rich lived on wealth stolen from the people, but he had taken from the rich nothing--nothing that was not lost to them already by their folly and their betrayal. For he had been betrayed [...], deceived, tempted," he tells her (Nostromo 541). When discussing the fate of the newly independent Sulaco, Dr. Monygham tells Mrs. Gould that: "There is no peace and no rest in the development of material interests. They have their law, and their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman" (Nostromo 511). In doing so, Dr. Monygham sums up the essence of accumulation by dispossession practiced by global capitalism. He continues to predict that the time will come when "all that the Gould Concession stands for shall weigh as heavily upon the people as the barbarism, cruelty, and misrule of a few years back" (Nostromo 511). When Mrs. Gould questions his view, he even suggests that the miners are not likely to support her husband, as they did in the Sulaco independence, in the upcoming unrest organized by secret societies of immigrants and natives. Dr. Monygham's analysis of capitalism deeply upsets Mrs. Gould who thinks that her schools, hospitals and other charitable deeds have brought the good to the people of Sulaco. Nevertheless, she concedes the futility of pinning one's faith, as her husband does, on material interests to bring order and justice. She now sees the San Tome mine in a new light: "feared, hated, wealthy" it is "more soulless than any tyrant, more pitiless and autocratic than the worst Government; ready to crush innumerable lives in the expansion of its greatness" (Nostromo 521). Here Mrs. Gould finally is able to acknowledge the effects of accumulation by dispossession on the people of Sulaco, a new perspective that was absent when she related the history of the San Tome mine and its colonial history under the Spanish rule. At that time, she was sympathetic to the exploitation of the miners by the Spanish but was mute on their exploitation by the Gould Concession. Father Corbelan, the aristocratic Catholic priest, also indicts the ills of material interests on behalf of the Sulaco people. "Let them [representatives of material interests] beware, then, lest the people, prevented from their aspirations, should rise and claim their share of the wealth and their share of the power," says the priest (Nostromo 510). Thus through the major European characters, Conrad wages his indictment of capitalist imperialism, which however simultaneously excludes the indigenous miners from voicing their opposition to the capitalist accumulation by dispossession. Readers are told at the end of the novel that Charles Gould is having troubles with the miners, indicating that they are asserting their agency in seeking a social change, but their voice is presented indirectly (Nostromo 555). The specter of the indigenous labor unrest, which the anonymous narrator briefly alludes to in his self-introduction in Chapter 8 of Part One, finally comes to a head at the end of Nostromo, threatening the continuing operation of accumulation by dispossession.

What haunts Sulaco politically and economically, in the final analysis, then is the specter of global capitalism, which organizes social labor and time and space to maximize profit for private appropriation. The haunting of the mine, the silver and Mrs. Goulds watercolor sketch on the characters' psyches that Conrad portrays so vividly needs to be explained in relation to global capital making its inroads on Sulaco through the export of finance capital and the use of force when necessary. That is, the psychological haunting is both historical and material: produced by the capitalist mode of production--commodity production. The reification of the San Tome mine as a spectral being, as in the cases of the Gould father and son, thus obscures the social relations of production and class struggles that are manifested in the use of space as well as in lived space. So is the fetishism exhibited by Sotillo and Nostromo on the silver, a global commodity that is essentially the product of dead or congealed labor. Just like the psychological haunting of the mine, the silver and the painting, the discursive haunting of the indigenous miners at the margins of the novel is also both historically and materially produced by the structure of capitalism that needs surplus labor to produce profit. That is, in order to tell the story of the San Tome mine and its colonization by global capital, Conrad needs to include the indigenous miners but he forecloses their perspectives because of his Eurocentric narrative. Moreover, the ghosts of the native miners who perished in the mine under forced labor during the Spanish colonial rule not only haunt the history of the mine, but also serve as a spectral reminder of the source of primitive accumulation of capital. Yet the primitive accumulation of capital does not end with Spanish colonialism; it continues under the Gould Concession with wage labor. As Harvey argues, the primitive accumulation of capital that Marx saw as the pre-history of capital does not cease to exist in modern and postmodern world. Rather, the expanded capitalist mode of (re) production around the globe accelerates its modus operandi, accumulation by dispossession: in its various forms it includes privatization of public lands, social services and public institutions and enterprises (Harvey 148). The building of the Sulaco railroad, which results in the dislocation of the indigenous inhabitants, and the exploitation of the indigenous miners by the Spanish colonial rulers and the Gould mine are two prime examples of accumulation by dispossession in Nostromo. The discursive haunting of the indigenous people in the narrative with multiple narrators thus points to primitive and modern accumulation of capital by dispossession. This is the Other story that has not yet been fully analyzed in the Conrad scholarship. The foreclosure of the indigenous perspectives, while eliding the question of class exploitation, nevertheless points to the structure of accumulation by dispossession, which is threatened, at least temporarily, by the coming labor unrest.


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Ross, Stephen. Conrad and Empire. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2004.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Watts, Cedric. A Preface to Conrad. New York: Longman, 1982.

--. Ed. Joseph Conrad's Letters to R. B. Cunninghame Graham. London: Cambridge University Press, 1969.




(1.) This essay is a revised version based on my dissertation chapter, "Spectrality in Conrad's Nostromo: The San Tome, Foreign Capital and the Native Other." It is available online at http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edU/UF/EO/01/36/01/00001/wang_h.pdf.

(2.) Hobsbawm describes the years from 1875 to 1914 as "the Age of Empire" for displaying two major characteristics: the dominance of the capitalist advanced countries over the backwater ones in the world economy and the appearance of "a new kind of imperialism" (56).

(3.) In "Autocracy and War," on the occasion of the Russian-Japanese war Conrad launched a severe criticism of the Russian autocracy, describing it as neither European nor Oriental, as having "no historical past" nor "a historical future" (81). In his view, the autocracy, being "inhuman," can "only end" (81-82). He then went on to discuss the possibility of wars among new democracies of tomorrow (86-88). Although in "Autocracy and War" Conrad was mainly concerned with the Russian autocracy brought to the world's attention by the Russian-Japanese War, he also made in passing a sharp criticism of imperialist capitalism. As he notes, "Industrialism and Commercialism--wearing high sounding names in many languages, [... ]--stand ready, almost eager, to appeal to sword as soon as the globe of the earth has shrunk beneath our growing numbers by another ell or so. And democracy which has elected to pin its faith to the supremacy of material interests will have to fight their battles to the bitter end" (88). This passage has often caught the critics' attention in analyzing Conrad's critique of imperialist capitalism of his time.

(4.) In Conrad and Imperialism, Benita Parry notes that there exists an affinity between Conrad and Max Weber in that "the representation of imperialism's ideology" in Nostromo echoes the connection between "Protestant ideas and the ethos of capitalism" articulated in Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (114). The American financier Holroyd with his imperialist ambition to rule the world as an "ordained destiny," justified by his religious belief, best represents this affinity between the novelist and the thinker (Parry 114). Parry's reading of Nostromo also highlights the role of the "international finance capitalism" in transforming the local politics of Costaguana (101).

(5.) Conrad in the Twenty-First Century (2005) with one section devoted to "Global Conrad" is one more example.

(6.) In their co-written book, Empire, Hardt and Negri announce the arrival of Empire, which they theorize as "the political subject" with a sovereign power to regulate global exchanges, putting "an end to colonialism and imperialism," although they also note that Empire still "constructs its own relations of power based on exploitation" (xi, 43). They also offer the concepts of society of control and of biopower (25), developed via French philosopher Michel Foucault, to describe the intricate mechanisms of Empire, which is "called into being and constituted on the basis of its capacity to solve conflicts" (15, emphasis original).

(7.) Fredric Jameson notes in "Modernism and Imperialism" that "the colonized other" is the "essential other component or opposite number" in the "mapping of the new imperial world system," and that when it becomes invisible, the mapping consequently becomes impossible (Modernist 156).

(8.) Even among Marxist literary critics who often foreground exploitation of labor by (finance) capital in their readings, or critics sympathetic to Marxist readings, the invocation and the foreclosure of the native miners in Nostromo is being overlooked. Jameson made no or little mention of the native miners while discussing the text by way of Greimas's semiotic rectangle centering on Nostromo as the Self and Decoud as the Ideal (Political 273-80). In her reading of Nostromo, Parry made passing comments on the "patient Indians," drawing our attention to the "laboring hands" of the dispossessed miners and noted their uncompensated labor during Spanish colonialism, but she failed to challenge Conrad's or the text's elision of the native voices and perspectives despite their significance as the material base of the mine (111, 117, 122, 123). Christopher GoGwilt had more to say on the Indian miners, regarding them as part of the proletarian class in Sulaco and as "a strangely collective double" of the dockworkers under Nostromo's leadership (215). As "an imaginary ethnographic, indigenous other," the miners are indispensable in Decoud's construction of a new political identity (GoGwilt 215). But he, like Parry, failed to question the exclusion of the Indian miners from the text's "multiplying perspectives" or what he called "perspectivism" in Nostromo (GoGwilt 213).

(9.) Ross is especially taken with the distinction between Empire and imperialism made by Hardt and Negri, and their notion of society of control and of deterritorialization, three concepts which he skillfully appropriated, among others, to develop a reading of Nostromo's slavery to the material interests before the awakening of his class consciousness (9-14).

(10.) Ross's reading focuses on the question of desire in Nostromo and Charles Gould and how it helps construct their subjectivity under the new imperial and biopolitical order (114-26, 126-30). His analysis, however, elides the issue of labor that is indispensable to the production of the silver ingots and to capital accumulation.

(11.) Achebe's criticism points out the longstanding problem in Western representations of the ethnic/racial other who is often denied speech and subjectivity and in Western criticism that consequently overlooks the representation of the foreclosed other. Recognizing this oversight, Jameson also writes that "When the other speaks, he or she becomes subject: which must be consciously registered as a problem by the imperial or metropolitan subject" (Modernist 156).

(12.) I am indebted to Spivak's critique of the invocation and foreclosure of the native informant in Western epistemology, and build on her critique to investigate the ideological and material consequences of foreclosing the native other in Nostromo and other literary and cultural texts that help inform the workings of globalizing capitalism.

(13.) Cooper addressed the subject of "vanishing American" in The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans. Melville christened the whaling vessel in Moby Dick as the Pequod to commemorate the extinct Indian tribe, devastated in the 1736 Pequod War. In Yonnondio and his other poems, Whitman lamented the disappearance of Native Americans.

(14.) I remain skeptical about the usefulness of destabilizing all concepts, especially when concepts are developed out of the real material conditions of production such as use-value.

(15.) The language of haunting also appears in "Autocracy and War" when Conrad noted that the real object lesson of the Russian-Japanese war was "to lay a ghost," meaning the Russian autocracy (76). He went on to write that "The task of Japan is done; the mission accomplished: the ghost of Russia's might is laid [...] as in the fables of our childhood, the twelve strokes of the hour have rung, the cock has crowed, the apparition has vanished--never to haunt again this world" (76).

(16.) In his reading of Nostromo, Ross recognizes the silver of the San Tome mine as the "material foundation" in Sulaco's social organization, noting that it is the silver that "sets the pace, limits, and structural integrity of life in Sulaco" (119). But his analysis remains suspect of fetishizing the silver, the thing itself, as it does not recognize labor, the labor of the indigenous miners, congealed in the silver as a commodity, as the real material force of the mine that sets in motion the cultural, social, political and economic life in Sulaco. Although Ross acknowledges the miners are "human resources" of the mine, he does so in a parenthesis (121).

(17.) See Elosie Knapp Hay ("Nostromo" 189,198, 200, 202, 204,208), Irving Howe ("Conrad: Order and Anarchy" 102-105), and Avrom Fleishman ("Nostromo: Class Struggle as Tragedy" 167, 169, 174). The Montero brothers and the corrupt governments of Vincente Ribiera and Guzman Bento are often invoked by the critics to discuss the tumultuous political situations in Sulaco.

(18.) See Jakob Lothe ("Nostromo: Panoramic, All-Inclusive Authorial Narrative" 179) and Cedric Watts (Preface 150-153, 161-163).

(19.) In Capital, Marx defines primitive accumulation of capital as "the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production" (874-75). The methods used to achieve it include "conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder" (874). He also notes that exploitation of the indigenous peoples in (South) America after the discovery of gold and silver there constitutes "the chief moments of primitive accumulation" (915).

(20.) Here Conrad's description of Don Pepe's shabby military uniform borders on caricature, but the fact that the former solider needs the sword and the epaulettes indicating his military rank and thus his authority shows his hidden anxiety in managing the native miners and their families.

(21.) Ross offers an elaborate analysis of Nostromo's management of the dockworkers on behalf of capital by way of Hardt and Negri's notion of a society of control developed via Foucault, but he does not extend his analysis to the Indian miners who are also subjected to the same process of surveillance and control by Don Pepe.

(22.) Pratt explains that the term "anti-conquest" was chosen because in travel and exploration writings the "strategies of innocence are constituted in relation to older imperial rhetorics of conquest associated with the absolutist era" (7).

(23.) Although Nostromo helps manage the dock workers on behalf of capital before his disillusionment with the Sulaco European elite, he nevertheless speaks for the people in his indictment of the rich after the awakening of his class consciousness: "Kings, ministers, aristocrats, the rich in general, kept the people in poverty and subjection; they kept them as they kept dogs, to fight and hunt for their service" (Nostromo 415). Actually he sees himself as "a man of the people" even before his break with the Sulaco elite (Nostromo 301). In the "Author's Note" preceding the novel, Conrad also emphasizes his role as "a Man of the People" (xii).
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Author:Wang, Huei-Ju
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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