Coloniality of Anti-corruption: Whiteness, Disasters and the US anti-corruption policies in Puerto Rico

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This article introduces the concept of ‘coloniality of anti-corruption’ to help situate and describe contemporary US anti-corruption policies aimed at Puerto Rico. The aim of the concept of coloniality of anti-corruption is to underscore corruption’s inextricable relationship to race, class, gender, and other colonial power relations. The article argues that US interventions with the Puerto Rican government, along with its distribution of disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane María (2017) and subsequent earthquakes (2020), are best understood against the backdrop of a long history of corruption narrative implemented by the US. This is a narrative that seeks to legitimate US’s colonial and capitalist expansion in Puerto Rico. To demonstrate this, the article explores the application of anti-corruption narratives by the Trump administration to justify its disaster relief policies for Puerto Rico. In particular, the article focuses on Trump’s tweets describing Puerto Rican politicians as ‘corrupt’ and Puerto Rico as ‘geography of fraud.’ In doing so, the article provides a theoretical account of the uses of corruption and anti-corruption discourses to justify colonial and capitalist’s global endeavors. It also illustrates how anti-corruption policies reproduce the idea of the non-white other as the corrupt subject and denotes the humanitarian consequences of such policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1277-1298
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Review
Issue number6
Early online dateFeb 13 2023
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • corruption
  • Donald Trump and Puerto Rico
  • natural disasters
  • sociology of law
  • whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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