Apocalyptic Reckoning and Visualizations of Obligation: A Genealogy of Debt and Its Representations in Art, Media and Culture

Stephen Clark | University of Amsterdam | Apocalyptic Reckoning and Visualizations of Obligation: A Genealogy of Debt and Its Representations in Art, Media and Culture | Supervisor: Joyce Goggin | 2016-2020

With this proposed research I intend to examine the intersection between chiliastic visions and the emergence of a debtbased economy. My project would entail a genealogical survey of debt and its representations in media and culture, which are frequently depictions shaded by apocalypse and doom. I will take as my point of departure Nietzsche’s own genealogy in which he examines the concept of Schuld, which means both debt and guilt, and explore the ways in which religious beliefs of a “day of reckoning” take a secularized form in the realm of economy and financial obligations. In his recent work on the topic, David Graeber has pointed out the odd moral duality intrinsic in the concept of debt. If, in our current market economy, money and it’s representation has become more and more abstract (economists don’t even use the term money anymore), what then is our perception of and the representation of debt, which has a negative reciprocal relation to money in the first place? If debt is defined as something owed, an IOU, then its form is fundamentally more abstract than money or currency, and its visualization is often a rekening or bill.