‘I must first apologise’. Advance-fee scam letters as manifestos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advance-fee scam letters are email messages designed to engage the recipient in a fraudulent business partnership involving an initial investment on his/her part for the sake of making a large profit. Scam letters have sparked the interest of both ‘scam-busters’ and artists who use them as raw material in various artforms–music, films and installations. As they pass from one type of discourse and genre to another, and leave the Internet to become art, advance-fee scam letters cease to be just spam and become manifestary discourse. Neither loud and shouting, nor explicit and programmatic, they engage the reader/spectator in dialogue. In Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s video installation, ‘A Letter can always Reach its Destination’ (2012) they become a collective summons, via an embodied appeal to the spectator, engaging the spectator’s emotions and encouraging her to think critically and ethically about people’s destinies in developing countries. By tracing the history of both the manifesto and the advance-fee scam letter, this article shows their point of convergence. By this, it responds to Martin Puchner’s quest for a new type of hybrid manifesto and appeases Julian Rosefeldt’s doubts about the power of art to reach multiple audiences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Manifesto
  • Nigerian 419
  • advance-fee scam
  • art manifesto
  • redescription
  • scam letters


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