Nigerian scam e-mails and the charms of capital

Smith, A. (2009) Nigerian scam e-mails and the charms of capital. Cultural Studies, 23(1), pp. 27-47. (doi: 10.1080/09502380802016162)

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So-called '419' or 'advance-fee' e-mail frauds have proved remarkably successful. Global losses to these scams are believed to run to billions of dollars. Although it can be assumed that the promise of personal gain which these e-mails hold out is part of what motivates victims, there is more than greed at issue here. How is it that the seemingly incredible offers given in these unsolicited messages can find an audience willing to treat them as credible? The essay offers a speculative thesis in answer to this question. Firstly, it is argued, these scams are adept at exploiting common presuppositions in British and American culture regarding Africa and the relationships that are assumed to exist between their nations and those in the global south. Secondly, part of the appeal of these e-mails lies in the fact that they appear to reveal the processes by which wealth is created and distributed in the global economy. They thus speak to their readers’ attempts to map or conceptualise the otherwise inscrutable processes of that economy. In the conclusion the essay looks at the contradictions in the official state response to this phenomena.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:419s, e-mail scams, Nigeria, post-colonialism, anthropology, Karl Marx
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor Andrew
Authors: Smith, A.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Cultural Studies
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1466-4348
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis
First Published:First published in Cultural Studies 21(1):27-47
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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