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Abstract

In his article "Digital Media, 419, and the Politics of the Global Network" Paul Benzon analyzes advance fee fraud, a scam in which con artists communicate with potential victims via email, promising them a monetary reward in return for financial assistance in extracting an allegedly astronomical (yet ultimately nonexistent) fortune from within a geographical zone often characterized as highly violent and unstable. Advance fee fraud is often referred to simply as 419, in accordance with the section of Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud. Benzon reads advance fee fraud as a practice of epistolary narrative that self-consciously allegorizes central processes of global financial circulation, trading in digitized narrative information rather than in digitized capital. In this sense, he suggests, it functions as a highly abstract financial instrument within the network of the global economy, dealing in a paradoxically literal fashion with imaginary money and thus using narrative form to probe and problematize the question of how and where money might move as data. Tracing the geopolitical and geoeconomic dimensions of advance fee fraud’s narrative and formal structure, Benzon argues that its random interpellations, arbitrary twists, and exaggerated claims deploy literary narrative in a manner that both relies upon and mirrors the material instability of global digital mediation itself.

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