Gaze upon the Transaction
Object Politics in the Colonial Matrix of Power

Colonial Value Chains


Olya Zovskaya, Robin Dingemans, Stefan Fuchs

To be part of a culture that is always looking at another as a model, ideal, or “right” is to inherit an ideology that creates self-understanding as secondary, lagging behind, or simply invisible on the world scene. This process is maintained through the consumption of “original” objects (or often just ideas of these objects) and is connected to the economic abilities of the local market and its position in comparison to Western markets. Such consumption models create not only low self-validation based on this positioning; but also various imitations and interpretations, encouraging attempts to enter the world system through the self-exoticization of local cultures, for export to Western consumers.

We are interested in the distribution and consumption of objects through colonized spaces (and their peripheries) in the post-Soviet so-called “Global South”, in relation to a so-called “Global North” culture; how the non-Western world follows, receives, and interprets Western culture in order to integrate itself in its system of validation. We are interested in how this process shapes societies; and how this distribution of “goods” creates and maintains hierarchies in matrices of power.

We seek out forms of resistance that emerge within relations of waste/neo/ decolonialism in places excluded from and exhausted by the Global North; ways and practices through which to question and challenge the existing structures of dominance and elucidate new links of mutual awareness, solidarity and praxis. This means, for example, problematizing or disavowing Global North aid mindsets, which are a central problem in waste colonialism.

So far in our research, we have touched upon these questions from different perspectives. Through the prism of diverse non-Western contexts such as Aotearoa New Zealand, Peru, Armenia, Uganda, and Ukraine, we have tackled questions relating to: objects’ meanings and evaluation systems; the gaze and positionality those doing the evaluating; the issue of second-hand and vintage; the problem of waste-colonialism; the politics of memory; cultural heritage preservation; repatriation of stolen artifacts; and other related issues.