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Research Seminars



Patrick Neveling
SOAS, University of London The Resistible Rise of the Otherwise Neoliberal: On Special Economic Zones and the Making of World-History


23 Nov 2017

4:30 p.m.
4.34 Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus



Special economic zones are today central to most programs for regional and national development, with governments across Africa, Asia, and increasingly Europe and the Americas driving up the number of zones well beyond 4,000 and zone factories employing around 100 million workers. Yet, how did it come to this, given decades of resistance against exploitative labour conditions, runaway factories and tax evasion that prevail in the zones?


This presentation charts the resistible rise of special economic zones since 1945 and shows how their inherent promise of miraculous growth rates turned peripheral locations such as Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and later Mauritius and PR China, into the birthplaces of an "otherwise neoliberal". In linking these origins of neoliberal practices and markets with Sidney Mintz's interpretation of colonial Caribbean plantations as "landmark experiments of modernity", the paper proposes an analytical model for world historical change as a periphery-driven phenomenon.


Patrick Neveling teaches Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He has published widely on the global history and anthropology of capitalism with foci on export processing zones and special economic zones, neoliberalism, colonial and postcolonial transactional orders, the invention of tradition, tourism, and more. Most of his publications are available open access here:


All are welcome. No registration is required.