This essay presents a genealogy of the postcolonial/postimperial apparatus of area and charts its contemporary mutation in relation to the transition currently underway from industrial capitalism to bioinformatic capitalism. The restructuring of the university into a service industry that debuted in the 1990s has dramatically affected the milieu in which area studies are practiced. The key to understanding this dramatic change is to be found in the articulation of financialization, bioinformatic technologies, and population management. The creation of an intrinsic link between value production and life, understood as code, has profound ramifications for the organization of the humanities, which are still indebted to very powerful presuppositions not only about species difference (such as the difference between human and animal) but also about the way in which species difference is related to or reflected in social difference. While area studies remain tenaciously tied to the geographical index of anthropological difference inherited from the colonial-imperial modernity, they are today in the business, like the rest of the humanities, of contributing to the construction of an entirely new topography. This topography is generally not visible to the “specialists” who engage in area studies work, nor to the “native social species” they study. It is accessible only from the perspective of the facilities and institutions that handle the “metadata” produced out of academic evaluation bureaucracies. Such topography, based on the algorithmic abstractions of financialization, is capable of mapping movements in everything from gene pools and student migration to recombinant DNA and literary studies, and then further mapping all manner of correlations among the various domains. Hence, while the area studies apparatus was previously a form of institutionalized nation-state racism, today it is becoming part of the bioinformatic circuits of anthropological sampling in the neocon/neoliberal loop between corporate sovereignty and mass surveillance.

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