"Race and Capitalism: Some Definitional Problems”
Locations: ML 453
This presentation will argue that ongoing contemporary debates over the theoretical relationship between race and capitalism are in part generated by discrepant definitions of basic categories of analysis, from the concept of race itself, often understood in terms of identity or processes of identification, to class and inequality as conceptual proxies for capitalism.
Not simply a scholastic exercise, addressing problems of definition carries significant political stakes for modeling the political economy of race in particular, and for identifying potentially transformative political strategies, objectives, and material relations between seemingly disparate social movements.
The work of semantic disaggregation remains a vital theoretical tool to map the social forces that can systematically reproduce racially structured societies over time, but also to analyze and counter contemporary 21st century ethnonationalist rearticulations of the language of racial grievance, “biocultural” difference, and civilizational “great replacement” conspiracies.
Christopher Chen is an Associate Professor of Literature at UC Santa Cruz where he is a poet, a literary critic, and a theorist of race and capitalism. He is the author of Literature and Race in the Democracy of Goods (Bloomsbury, 2022), and co-author with Sarika Chandra of “Remapping the Race/Class Problematic” in Totality Inside Out: Rethinking Crisis and Conflict Under Capital (Fordham, 2022). With Chandra, he is currently working on a new book about comparative racialization and the value-form.He has published poetry, essays, interviews, and reviews in The South Atlantic Quarterly, The Village Voice, Crayon, 1913: A Journal of Forms, and Endnotes. He is currently co-organizing the University of California system’s new Marxist Institute for Research.