Associate Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Hannah C. Appel is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies and Associate Faculty Director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Hannah’s research and teaching focus on the daily life of capitalism, from the private sector in Africa to the relationship between financialization and household debt in the United States. Rather than assuming the scale or effects of transnational capitalist practices, Hannah takes global capitalism itself as an ethnographic object—what is it, and how could it be otherwise? In addition to publications on the global oil industry, infrastructure as an object of critical theory, and Occupy Wall Street, Hannah’s first book – The Licit Life of Capitalism: US Oil in Equatorial Guinea – explores the offshore, contracts, infrastructures, “the” economy as forms that facilitate diverse capitalist projects around the world. These forms and processes constitute the licit life of capitalism, and they take shape within the raced and gendered histories of colonialism, empire, and white supremacy out of which capitalism emerged. Hannah is at work on a second long-term project on African owned and capitalized banks and financial institutions on the continent. With a deep commitment to the economic imagination, the future of finance, and the power of social movements, Hannah is also a founding member and organizer of the Debt Collective. The Debt Collective works to build debtors unions through an emancipatory activation of household debt under finance capitalism: What if mass indebtedness is not simply a liability, but also a potential collective asset or leverage point in the fight to enact the new and radical economic forms we need? The Debt Collective’s first debtors’ union has won over $1 billion dollars in debt discharge for for-profit college student debtors.


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