Racial Capitalism Radical ColLab

Organizing Committee

Jodi Byrd (English/Gender and Women's Studies)
Lisa Marie Cacho (LLS)
Brian Jefferson (Geography & GIS)
Susan Koshy (English/Asian American Studies)
Jodi Melamed (Marquette)


Racial Capitalism ColLab Events

"Racial Banishment: A Postcolonial Critique of the Urban Condition in America," Lecture by Ananya Roy (UCLA), March 5, Spring 2019

This talk is concerned with processes of racial banishment, which I conceptualize as state-instituted violence against racialized bodies and communities.  Breaking with narratives of neoliberalization, I foreground how dispossession and disposability are being remade in the contemporary American metropolis. Holding in simultaneous view black studies and postcolonial theory, I seek to pinpoint the workings of racial capitalism at both urban and global scales. Such frameworks also make possible the study of imaginations and practices that challenge banishment and insist on freedom. Thinking from postcolonial Los Angeles, I share examples of movements and struggles that work to dismantle the color-lines of the 21st century.

"Universalism and Its Others: The Limits of Critical Urban Theory," Faculty-Graduate Seminar with Ananya Roy (UCLA), March 6, Spring 2019


"Racial Capitalism," Faculty-Graduate seminar with Jodi Melamed, March 27-28, Spring 2018

How can we explain the open secret of permissible violence for racial capitalist accumulation, in the U.S. and globally?  Melamed argues that we must come to grips with the diffuse and deadly capacities of administrative power to give impunity to racial capitalist violence through seemingly neutral repertoires of ‘democratic’ governance. She examines three domains of administration that reproduce capitalist violence as an open secret: police procedures, the exercise of rights (property, free speech, individual rights), and geographic-economic strategies, in particular one she describes as “settler logisticality.”


Racial Capitalism Conference Participants

Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Grad Center, CUNY)

Ruth Wilson Gilmore serves as a professor of geography in the doctoral program in earth and environmental sciences and as associate director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. Her wide-ranging research interests include revolution and reform, environments and movements, prisons, urban–rural continuities, and the African diaspora. From 2010 to 2011, she was president of the American Studies Association (ASA), the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history. Gilmore was already known as an activist and an intellectual when she came to the Graduate Center from the University of Southern California in Fall 2010. In her first book, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (2007), which ASA recognized with its Lora Romero First Book Award, she examined how political and economic forces produced California’s prison boom. In the 2012 DVD “Visions of Abolition: From Critical Resistance to a New Way of Life,” Gilmore joins other scholars to examine the prison system and the history of the prison abolition movement. Her work is widely anthologized, including in the groundbreaking essay compilation The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (2007; pbk., 2009). In 2012, the ASA honored Gilmore with its Angela Davis Award for Public Scholarship, an award that recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the “public good.” Gilmore lectures widely and works regularly with community groups and grassroots organizations and is known for the broad accessibility of her research. She holds a Ph.D. in economic geography and social theory from Rutgers University.

Michael Dawson (U Chicago)

Michael C. Dawson is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago. He has also taught at the University of Michigan and Harvard University. Dawson received his BA with High Honors from Berkeley in 1982 and doctorate degree from Harvard University in 1986. Professor Dawson was co-principal investigator of the 1988 National Black Election Study and was principal investigator with Ronald Brown of the 1993-1994 National Black Politics Study. His research interests have included the development of quantitative models of African American political behavior, identity, and public opinion, the political effects of urban poverty, and African American political ideology. This work also includes delineating the differences in African American public opinion from those of white Americans. More recently he has combined his quantitative work with work in political theory.

His previous two books, Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics (Princeton 1994) and Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies(Chicago 2001), won multiple awards, including Black Visionswinning the prestigious Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association. Dawson has also published numerous journal articles, book chapters and opinion pieces. Dawson's strong interest in the impact of the information technology revolution on society and politics, as well as his research on race are both fueled in part from his time spent as an activist while studying and working in Silicon Valley for several years. Dawson is currently finishing an edited volume, Fragmented Rainbow, on race and civil society in the United States as well as a solo volume, Black Politics in the Early 21st Century.

He is with Lawrence Bobo, the founding co-editor of the journal The Du Bois Review (Cambridge University Press), as well as being the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. Dawson has also served as the Chair of the Political Science Department of the University of Chicago. Among other duties Dawson was elected to the Board of the Social Science Research Council and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006. Dawson has been interviewed extensively by the print and broadcast media including the Washington Post, The Economist Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NPR, CNN, BET, and ABC News. Dawson is also a regular commentator at TheRoot.com.

Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas (UC-Davis)

Dr. Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas is an assistant professor in the department of Chicana\o Studies at UC Davis. She is also the faculty advisor for Beyond the Statsa student organization of formerly incarcerated and system impacted students supporting each other on campus. Her research focuses on policing, incarceration and race in the US. Specifically, she explores the political, economic, geographical and cultural terrain of racial punishment. Her first manuscript, The Visuality of Violence: Watching and Witnessing the Policing of Race examines the historical, political and economic legacies of racial violence in contemporary policing and through the material accumulation of White Humanity. Her current project The Cartography of Capital: Jail and the Policing of LA’s Human Terrain looks at the Los Angeles County jail and its pre-trial populations to begin to understand human capital and human relations as an ideological organizing concept and a close examination of the political economy of policing and imprisonment in Los Angeles and the way the way racial populations are managed the city.

Marisol LeBrón (UT-Austin)

Dr. Marisol LeBrón is an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in race, policing, and political activism in Puerto Rico and U.S. communities of color. She is an Assistant Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico (University of California Press, 2019), which examines the growth of punitive governance in contemporary Puerto Rico. She is also the co-editor, along with Yarimar Bonilla, of the forthcoming volume, Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Boston Review, and NACLA Report on the Americas, in addition to other scholarly and popular venues. She is one of the co-creators of the Puerto Rico Syllabus, a digital resource for understanding the Puerto Rican debt crisis.

Iyko Day (Mt Holyoke)

Iyko Day is Associate Professor of English and Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College and Co-Chair of the Five College Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program. Her research focuses on Asian North American literature and visual culture; settler colonialism and racial capitalism; Marxian theory and queer of color critique. She is the author of Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Duke, 2016) and she co-edits the book series Critical Race, Indigeneity, and Relationality for Temple University Press.

Alyosha Goldstein (U New Mexico)

Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century (Duke University Press, 2012), Alyosha Goldstein’s first book, examines mid-twentieth century community-based antipoverty initiatives in the United States within the context of the Cold War, decolonization movements worldwide, and grassroots struggles for self-determination. This study focuses on the ways in which the negotiation of boundaries—between foreign and domestic, empire and nation, violence and order, dependency and autonomy—were a vital part of racial and gendered struggles over the dynamics of governance and inequality in the United States.  This book analyzes the significance of the institutionalization of community development and efforts to involve poor people, indigenous peoples, and people of color in the planning and administration of programs on their behalf during the 1950s and 1960s.  Goldstein argues that the political utilities of poverty and the constitution of local community as the horizon of political transformation—partially as a surrogate for economic redistribution—were contingent upon tensions between models of self-help and self-determination, and were further catalyzed by the Cold War and the twilight of European colonial rule.  Initiatives such as the War on Poverty’s community action programs promoted self-government, self-improvement, and community development as a means to secure capitalist market relations and social order, even as the relative autonomy and collective action of poor people, communities of color, and indigenous peoples often proved more unruly and antagonistic than envisioned by liberal policymakers. Began as a dissertation in American Studies at NYU, it was awarded the American Studies Association's Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize in 2005.

Goldstein’s current research focuses on United States colonialism, the normative racial and gendered logics of neoliberalism, and economies of dispossession in the historical present.  He is working on a book manuscript entitled “Colonial Accumulations: Racial Capitalism and the Colonial Present” that uses recent legislation as a critical analytic lens through which to address current debates over racism, colonialism, and other modes of expropriation and devaluation, and to examine the jurisprudence of redress during our present era of economic crisis.

Cheryl I. Harris (UCLA)

Cheryl I. Harris is the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at UCLA School of Law where she teaches Constitutional LawCivil RightsEmployment DiscriminationCritical Race Theory and Race Conscious Remedies. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northwestern School of Law, Professor Harris began her teaching career in 1990 at Chicago- Kent College of Law after working for one of Chicago’s leading criminal defense firms and later serving as a senior legal advisor in the City Attorney’s office as part of the reform administration of Mayor Harold Washington of Chicago.  The interconnections between racial theory, civil rights practice, politics, and human rights have been important to her work.  She was a key organizer of several major conferences that helped establish a dialogue between U.S. legal scholars and South African lawyers during the development of South Africa’s first democratic constitution.  This work played a significant role in the production of her acclaimed and influential article, “Whiteness as Property” (Harvard Law Review).

Since joining the UCLA Law faculty in 1998, Professor Harris has continued to produce groundbreaking scholarship in the field of Critical Race Theory, particularly engaging the issue of how racial frames shape our understanding and interpretation of significant events like Hurricane Katrina—(“Whitewashing Race”, in California Law Review), admissions policies (“The New Racial Preferences” in California Law Review)(with Carbado) and anti-discrimination law (“Reading Ricci: Whitening Discrimination, Race-ing Test Fairness” in UCLA Law Review) (with West-Faulcon). She has also lectured widely on issues of race and equality at leading institutions here and abroad, including in Europe, South Africa, and Australia, and has been a frequent contributor to various media outlets on current events and cases involving race and equality. Professor Harris has served as a consultant to the MacArthur Foundation and has been on the board of leading academic societies, including the American Studies Association.  She has served as faculty director for the Critical Race Studies Program at UCLA Law School and has been widely recognized as a groundbreaking teacher in the area of civil rights education, receiving the ACLU Foundation of Southern California's Distinguished Professor Award for Civil Rights Education. 

Kimberly Kay Hoang (U Chicago)

Kimberly Kay Hoang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and the College at the University of Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in 2011 from the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and in 2012 she won the American Sociological Association Best Dissertation Award. Dr. Hoang is the author of, Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work (2015) published by the University of California Press. Dealing in Desire is the winner of seven distinguished book awards from multiple sections of the American Sociological Association, the National Women’s Studies Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Association for Asian Studies. With funding support from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Global Scholar Award, she is currently working on her second book project Playing in the Gray that involves a comparative study of the articulation of inter-Asian flows of capital and foreign investment in Southeast Asia. Her work has been published in American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Gender & Society, City & Community, Contexts, and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Her peer reviewed journal articles have won over 10 prizes from the ASA, SWS, VSG, and AAS [Sociologists for Women in Society, Vietnam Scholars Group, Association for American Studies, and the American Sociological Association: Section on Global & Transnational Sociology, Section on Race, Gender and Class, Section on Sociology of Sex & Gender, Section on Sociology of Body and Embodiment, Section on Asia and Asian America, and the Section on Sexualities].

Jodi Melamed (Marquette U) and Chandan Reddy (U Washington)

Jodi Melamed is associate professor of English and Africana Studies at Marquette University. Her current research aims to provide an anti-racist critique of contemporary global capitalism and an anti-capitalist critique of historically dominant U.S. anti-racisms.  She is the author of Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and a contributor to Strange Affinities: The Sexual and Gender Politics of Comparative Racialization (Duke University Press, 2011) and Keywords for American Cultural Studies (NYU Press, forthcoming). Her next book project, Capital’s Metabolisms investigates representational and relational dimensions of ‘bio-financialization’ (the nexus linking life and financialization) in neoliberalism. Her areas of interest include critical race and ethnic studies, woman of color feminism and queer of color critique, political economy, and culture and globalization.  Her awards, fellowships, and grants include a Fulbright, a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellowship, and grants from the American Studies Association, the Social Science Research Council, the Mellon Foundation and the Wisconsin Humanities Council.  Currently, she serves as Co-Chair of the American Studies Association’s Program Committee and as a member of the Modern Language Association’s executive committee for the division on sociological approaches to literature. 

At Marquette University, Jodi Melamed regularly teaches courses in multiple contemporary U.S. literatures, race and ethnic studies, literary critical theory and practice, and gender and sexuality studies. Recent courses include “African American Literature: Thinking Justice and Inequality Beyond the State and Citizenship,” “Introduction to Critical Ethnic Studies and 20/21st Century U.S. Literature,” and “The Imagination as Social Practice.” Committed to the project of the public use of knowledge (an idea wholly coherent with the mission of MU as an private Jesuit institution), she constantly searches for ways to make research and teaching at MU useful for all of Milwaukee’s communities and to open what counts as “learning” at Marquette University to the formal and informal knowledge embedded in Milwaukee’s multiple publics.

Chandan Reddy is an Assocaite Professor of Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington.


Lisa Cacho (UIUC)

Lisa Maria Cacho is an Associate Professor of Latina/Latino Studies and an affiliate of Asian American Studies, English, and Gender & Women's Studie at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Lisa Cacho's scholarship interrogates the ways in which human value is both ascribed and denied relationally along racial, gendered, sexual, national, and spatial lines. Her work demonstrates how race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, and legality work interdependently to assign human value and to render relations of inequality normative, natural, and obvious in both dominant and oppositional discourses. To understand how the rhetoric and discourse of value are both institutionalized and popularized to devastating effect, she analyzes a range of sources, such as ballot measures ascribing “illegality” to persons, legal provisions targeting “criminal aliens,” court documents evaluating degrees of “guilt,” and related media accounts that manage and make sense of racial contradictions. Her book, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (NYU press, 2012) examines the ways in which representations of race and race relations mediate how we affectively and intellectually apprehend criminal justice and civil/human rights.

Racial Capitalism Conference Paper Abstracts

Keynote: Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “What is the Racial in Racial Capitalism? Magic, Partition, Politics”

Capitalism requires inequality, and racism enshrines it. That said, in a good deal of current work on racial capitalism, the racial rabbit pulled from the capitalist’s top-hat is rarely white, while the profiteer always is. How does the trick work? Like all magic, it depends on a sequence of mis-directing actions: to present social-spatial structures as labeled containers, to restrict race-making to color-distinctions, to initiate African-European historical contact with the slave trade, and finally to detonate the blinding flash of white supremacy when the rabbit appears, obscuring plain sight. If, as Robinson argues in Black Marxism, there’s never been an instant that capitalism isn’t racial, and that racial neither means Black nor requires white, then what does the trick politically displace --especially in the wake of Prashad’s Darker Nations analysis? We know that organized abandonment and organized violence contour the global struggle to erect or evade barriers in capitalism's multi-scalar extractive accumulation strategy, and that the resultant devolutionary forces delineate fertile ground for fascism’s soil-ist tendencies. A refreshed look at historical and contemporary dynamics operating across the (re)partitioned geographies of the earth’s surface might enhance our ability to perceive abolitionist consciousness and practice.

Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas, “California Racial Capitalism”

This inquiry will engage current thinking about the geographies of racial capitalism in the West focusing on California. Using policing and jails as an anchor point, it will consider the question of what is racial capitalism within the particular historical-political economies that California structures, emerging out of the earliest history of war, settlement, and the tangled legacies of policing, vigilantes, early urban development, and county jails. It is a discussion of why a spatial reading of racial capitalism in the West is critical to our ongoing understanding of American empire and race. It will contemplate California’s particular place in the West and the role of race in housing, labor, policing, war making and jails. It will consider California and the West a necessary geographical framework for understanding historical, present, and future iterations of racial capitalism and put forward the following questions: What did California primitive accumulation look like? What does accumulation look like now? How did California function as a resource frontier? Where do we see Empire in relation to racial capitalism in California


Marisol LeBrón, “Policing Solidarity: Race, Violence, and the Lessons of the University of Puerto Rico Strikes”

In 2010 and 2011, students at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) went on strike to protest government imposed austerity and administrators’ ongoing efforts to shrink and privatize the archipelago’s only public institution of higher learning. During the two strikes – occurring respectively from April 21, 2010 to June 21, 2010 and from December 7, 2010 to March 7, 2011 – students and their supporters experienced widespread state violence and harassment at the hands of police and private security forces. In this talk, I will discuss how the police violence against UPR protesters drew upon strategies of containment solidified, in part, through more than two decades of policing racially and economically marginalized populations just beyond the campus’ borders. While UPR students’ exposure to state violence and repression created powerful moments of solidarity with racially and economically marginalized communities, there were also moments when students reinforced logics of racialized criminalization promoted by the state. I detail, for example, moments when students sought to leverage their privileged positions in order to assert they were “students not criminals” and thus undeserving of state violence. Students responded to their own experiences of brutality and repression by either undermining or reifying the structures of anti-Black racism, segregation, and classism that have animated policing throughout the archipelago. The strikes at the University of Puerto Rico illuminate how punitive governance, and the violence that undergirds it, has created a complicated legacy for young Puerto Ricans as they forge solidarity across race and class and confront hierarchies of belonging and exclusion.


Iyko Day, “Settler Colonialism’s Hiroshima”

It is relatively unknown that in the 1940s, uranium from the Belgian Congo and the Northwest Territories in Canada was used in the first atomic bomb that was tested in New Mexico and detonated over Hiroshima in 1945. My presentation explores the radioactive non-sites of this history, and the ways in which nuclear colonialism designates Indigenous lands as peripheral sites of accumulation and what Traci Brynne Voyles calls “wastelanding.” These are sites that are deemed unproductive, backward, and peripheral to the technological superiority of the global north but are nevertheless targeted for resource extraction and toxic waste dumping. By honing in on the cycles of accumulation associated with uranium mining that largely occurs on Indigenous lands, I grapple with Marx’s theory of “so-called primitive accumulation” as a constitutive, contemporary, and violent extra-economic logic of settler colonial racial capitalism. I probe the colonial dynamics of accumulation through analyses of visual representations of extractive wastelands, which evoke a dispossessed, grotesque other of the pristine colonial landscape—but also serve as a queer repository of forgotten, intimate histories of land and labor.


Alyosha Goldstein, “There for the Taking: Colonial Entitlement and the Relations of Reproduction”

This paper argues that a critical understanding of the specificities of racial capitalism in the United States requires an analysis of Indigenous dispossession and settler colonialism as ongoing in the present. Social reproduction and the property relation of racial capitalism provide an especially useful lens through which to analyze settler colonialism as historically and presently constitutive for the formation of capitalism in the U.S. Boarding schools, and perhaps even more explicitly, adoption and foster care offer models of possession and social reproduction that have sought to preclude the futurity of Indigenous peoples. As key sites in the reproduction of social relations, these are policies and programs through which Indigenous peoples are differentially constituted in relation to claims to proper being, property, proprietary rights, land, jurisdiction, and sovereign power.

The 2018 Brackeen v Zinke decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, now on appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and likely on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, provides the principal example through which this paper examines these dynamics. Brackeen is poised to undermine the protective gains of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act by alleging that racial preference and “special rights” have been granted to tribal nations. In addition to the now familiar attack on ICWA as what presiding Judge Reed O’Connor termed a “race-based statute,” O’Connor also contended that by recognizing tribal preferences in child welfare proceedings, ICWA represents an illegal grant of power to tribal governments that undermines U.S. national sovereignty. Ultimately, an analysis of Brackeen provides evidence of how and why Native dispossession is not one historical moment in a teleology of capitalist development, but continues and changes over time in ways that operate in conjunction with other economies of expropriation, violability, and the differential devaluation of racialized peoples.


Cheryl I. Harris,  “Debt, Development and Dispossession: Afterlives of Slavery”

This paper considers dimensions of the relationship between dispossession and race. Racialized dispossession is not episodic but is a pattern, part of the afterlife of slavery, that functions through the mechanisms of debt and development or “improvement.” Recent events have revealed the relationship between debt and policing and incarceration. Following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson a now much-cited Department of Justice report documented the use of the criminal sanction system to extract revenue from Ferguson’s Black population. Through issuing citations for minor municipal ordinance violations, the City imposed fines and penalties which were beyond the ability of many of its Black residents to pay. These unpaid fines then became the basis for the issuance of arrest warrants, often leading to incarceration, notwithstanding presumed legal constraints on imprisonment for debt. Based on the burgeoning number of lawsuits challenging modern day debtors’ prisons in many jurisdictions, this practice is hardly unique to Ferguson. Indeed, I argue it is a systemic pattern relying on the mechanism of debt as a race-neutral means of implementing racial dispossession— what the late Clyde Woods called “asset-stripping.” This practice is rooted in history. Following emancipation, the alchemy of debt transformed freed people into an asset that could be leased and exploited. Indeed, Black bodies were “propertized” in a post-slavery regime and became a source of value by virtue of their indebtedness. This racialized structure of property and dispossession persists.

Black geographies and spaces as well as Black bodies are similarly subject to being placed under the heel of debt. Debt has become the means of racially profiling localities whose fiscal distress triggers the deployment of emergency management systems. Under state laws, emergency managers displace structures of democratic control and facilitate further extraction, such as infamously, in the city of Flint. As with Black residents, Black communities are subjected to forms of racial dispossession through the ostensibly race-neutral processes of collecting debts.

Concurrent with the use of debt as a key technology of dispossession is the use of development to achieve similar outcomes. Black spaces and geographies are deemed to be “waste” lands, “no-go” areas caught in a process of inevitable decay from which they are in need of rescue and improvement. I consider two contemporary examples, one in which the propertyless are subject to racialized dispossession and another in which Black property owners are subject to targeted predation through programs of development and improvement.


Kimberly Kay Hoang, “In Search of the Next ‘El Dorado’: Mining for Capital in a Frontier Market with Colonial Legacies”

This chapter brings together insights from the humanities and social sciences to examine how the broader social, historical, and colonial contexts that set the stage for contemporary investment relations between foreign investors and government officials in highly regulated and protected sectors of the economy that feel particularly nationalistic like mining, oil, gas, natural resources, and real estate.This chapter works to analyze the contemporary investment flows through a postcolonial lens. This chapter is motivated by one basic question: How do foreign investors move money from around the world into emerging markets with: (a) histories of colonialism and imperialism; (b) where local governments strongly resist new forms of neo-economic colonialism from foreign investors; and (c) where there is a general lack of access to information and the laws are open to interpretation? The country I focus on for this chapter is Vietnam. However, because this sector is so small this chapter develops a composite case by merging investments into three different mines together in order to better anonymize my data sources. The case illustrates how mining for capital led to a showdown with the government leaving both entities feeling slighted by the other which ultimately led to the demise of a $150 million investment project. This created a cascade effect of losses for both institutional investors and small mom-and-pop shop investors from all around the world.


Jodi Melamed and Chandan Reddy, “Administrating Today’s Racial Capitalism Through Differential Rights”

How do entanglements of racialization and capitalism affect politics in the United States and globally? We reframe this question by rethinking the political – in particular, the category of rights – outside of its liberal genealogy to consider, from a racial capitalist perspective, how capitalist economies are constituted, operationalized, and administrated through differential rights, in which racialized processes of valuation and devaluation are immanent. In this talk, we analyze the administration of today’s financial, extractive, and logistical neoliberal capitalism through differential rights. On top of and below the historically typical routines organized by liberal rights abstractions, we identify two racialized repertoires of rights powerfully at work in the present: the right of financial and extractive capitalists to be unencumbered by concern for the wellbeing of others and the right of assetless individuals to be handled.

Lisa Marie Cacho, “She Was Only Trying to Save Her Life”: Disempowered by Self-Defense”

Self-defense statutes make it difficult and sometimes impossible to prosecute law enforcement for killing people of color. While Graham v Connor (1989) empowered law enforcement to take lives according to their own judgment, self-defense law has a longer history that is grounded in gendered histories of slavery and indigenous dispossession. This talk will examine this history and provide a contemporary case study that reveals how the dehumanizing logics of racial capitalism and settler colonialism continue to operate today to justify and naturalize police killings of unarmed black girls.


Racial Capitalism Poster with Conference Schedule