Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Race
Secondary Theme: Labor
In 1983, Cedric Robinson published his magnum opus, Black Marxism, in which he coined the term “racial capitalism” to signify the historical emergence of capitalism alongside race and racism. We turn to think with racial capitalism for inspiration at a moment when contemporary anthropological understandings of race or capitalism have fallen short in explaining how structures of inequity and violence persist despite overwhelming mainstream critique. These critiques have highlighted enduring structures of poverty, displacement and migration, environmental destruction, the expansion and empowerment of corporations, imprisonment, and the disempowerment of labor, among others. By taking inspiration from substantivist approaches that take capitalism as continuously in the process of making and being generated, we examine the emergence of old and new forms of inequalities, including those maked by race, gender, and class.
At the same time, we recognize the multiplicity of struggles to create alternatives to racial violence and capitalist exploitation. We turn to examine how these alternatives are variously imagined, negotiated, and operationalized within and against capitalist practices. By paying particular attention to how race and economic formations are co-constituted, this panel aims to extend anthropological inquiry into racial capitalism to propose new possibilities for theorizing and doing anthropology. We aim to provide working definitions of racial capitalism, to examine how structural racism and economic inequities are mutually reproduced, and to reflect on the possibilities (and limitations) of alternatives to exclusion and exploitation. In other words, how are inequalities generated through, and despite of resistance, and what lessons might we glean for moving beyond liberal and racial capitalism.
To ground an “anthropology of racial capitalism,” our panelists explore the following questions:
What does it mean to investigate “racial capitalism” as an anthropological object?
How do people living under precarious conditions create different protocols for practice-based and technology-driven capitalism?
What productive tensions arise when researchers work across the activist/industry/academic divide when conducting ethnographies of the economy and of race and racism?
What does an orientation to racial capitalism reveal about anthropology’s theoretical and methodological assumptions, and how can develop a more productive-- and yet still critical-- anthropology?
How can we move towards a better understanding of and better alternatives for liberal capitalism?