Ropes in the tumultuous first decades of the 20th century were often curious composites of co-existing global regimes of accumulation: manila from the U.S. imperial control over the Philippines; cotton or domestically produced hemp from brutal Jim Crow sharecropping regimes; and henequen produced through the violent exploitation of expropriated Indigenous peasants and an indebted global proletariat. In “How to Make a Rope,” the first chapter of Making Internationalism: The Color Line, the Class Struggle, and the Mexican Revolution (University of California Press, forthcoming), Christina Heatherton explores this vast interlocking universe of exploitation, expropriation, and oppression. She argues that ropes, the ligatures of the global economy, materialize the processes by which the lives of people across disparate spaces have been densely interwoven. Through an examination of international rope and cordage catalogues, early 20th-century newspapers, and correspondence between radical organizers, her social history of ropes demonstrates that when capitalism links spaces it also imbricates the fates of the people compelled into its regimes of accumulation.
Christina Heatherton is an American studies scholar and historian of anti-racist social movements. She is currently an assistant professor of American studies at Barnard College, completing her first book, Making Internationalism: The Color Line, the Class Struggle, and the Mexican Revolution (University of California Press, forthcoming). With Jordan T. Camp she recently edited Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (Verso Books, 2016). Her work appears in American Quarterly, Social Justice, Interface, Feminists Rethink the Neoliberal State: Inequality, Exclusion and Change, edited by Leela Fernandes (New York University Press, 2018), Futures of Black Radicalism, edited by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (Verso Books, 2017), and The Rising Tides of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements Across the Pacific, edited by Moon-Ho Jung (University of Washington Press, 2014). Her writing also appears in popular venues such as Funambulist Magazine, The Washington Spectator, and 032c Magazine. With Jordan T. Camp she previously co-edited Freedom Now! Struggles for the Human Right to Housing in LA and Beyond (Freedom Now Books, 2012). She is the editor of Downtown Blues: A Skid Row Reader (Freedom Now Books, 2011).