State of the Field Session: Racial Capitalism

Bethany Moreton

Thursday, April 15, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Type: State of the Field

Tags: Business and Economy; Labor and Working-Class; Race


Despite the ubiquity of the term racial capitalism, its full potential remains to be realized. This panel takes account of how scholars have described the historical relationship between economic relations of exploitation and the racial terms through which they were organized, justified, and contested. It also raises and engages such questions as: How do the disciplinary ideologies of history shape debates around racial capitalism? What is the relationship between race and Indigeneity? Is racial capitalism elastic enough, and might the term gendered racial capitalism prove more useful in linking race to other forms of social difference under capitalism? What are the geographic boundaries of racial capitalism?

Session Participants

Chair: Destin K. Jenkins, University of Chicago
Destin Jenkins (Chair) is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He specializes in racial capitalism’s history and consequences for democracy and inequality in the United States. His first book, The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the Modern American City, is forthcoming from The University of Chicago Press. He is also co-editor of the forthcoming collection, Histories of Racial Capitalism (Columbia University Press). Jenkins earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University, and doctorate from Stanford University. He has held fellowships at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School.

Panelist: Justin Leroy, University of California, Davis
Justin Leroy is Assistant Professor History at the University of California, Davis, where he also co-directs the Mellon Research Initiative on Racial Capitalism. His first book, The Lowest Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century will be published in the History of U.S. Capitalism series at Columbia University Press. He is also co-editor (with Destin Jenkins) of Histories of Racial Capitalism, and “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive,” a special issue of Social Text. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Historical Review, Theory & Event, Cultural Studies, and The Journal of African American History.

Panelist: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Princeton University
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Taylor earned her doctorate in African American Studies from Northwestern University, and is the author of two books, including From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, which won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book in 2016, and Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (2019) which has been long-listed for a National Book Award for nonfiction. She is also editor of How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (2017). 

Panelist: Jackie Wang, History of prisons and police, political economy of race
Jackie Wang is a historian, poet, and Assistant Professor of Culture and Media Studies at The New School. She is the author of Carceral Capitalism (Semiotexte Press), a book on the racial, economic, political, legal, and technological dimensions of the US carceral state. She has received fellowships from the Weatherhead Center, the Warren Center, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Schlesinger Library, where she conducted research on the life and legacy of Angela Davis.