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geographies of racial capitalism

graduate seminar

If capitalism is never not racial, then how do we understand the relationship between race and capitalism in the making of the modern world? What are longer histories of racial domination and how are these dynamics shaped by relational geographies of imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy, and capital accumulation? How has Blackness, as a structural location, shaped the creation of value globally? For decades, scholars have debated the significance of a race or class analysis, yet the resuscitation of the work of Black radicals and intellectuals alongside growing pressure from grassroots social movements has pushed scholars to return to foundational work on racial capitalism as well as develop new throughlines in analysis. 

This course will trace the genealogy of scholarship on racial capitalism at times jumping scales and moving back and forth in time, paying particular attention to work of Black radical scholars. This includes those thinking and scheming with and/or as Marxist-Leninsts, such as WEB DuBois, Claudia Jones, Amílcar Cabral, Walter Rodney, Stuart Hall, James and Grace Lee Boggs, and Cedric Robinson. Throughout, we’ll sharpen our analysis of racial capitalism paying close attention to the historically and geographically specific dynamics in the making of global racial capitalism- including colonialism, transatlantic slavery, US war and imperialism, global labor regimes, neoliberalism and finance capital, and carceral geographies. My goal is that we’ll clarify the often expansive concept of racial capitalism alongside radical internationalist, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-sexist, and abolitionist movements past and present. This course, like theories of racial capitalism, draws on thinkers in Black, economic, and labor geographies, sociology, history, political science, and critical ethnic studies.


I organize this class as part-literature review, part-professionalization, and part writing workshop. I hope you come out of this class with:

  • A working knowledge of the classic themes and literatures on race and capitalism, 

  • Familiarity with new work which builds from and critiques this “canon”;

  • Familiarity with a broad network of key scholars past and present;

  • Understanding of the utility of a multi-disciplinary approach to racial capitalism as well as the unique contributions of human geographers;

  • A publishable paper

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