Racial Capitalism: A Methodological Discussion 1

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Organizers: Benjamin Teresa, Caroline Ponder, Kelsey Johnson
Chairs: Benjamin Teresa


Against the historical backdrop of geography as a “white discipline” (Pulido 2002, Derickson 2016), geographers have recently engaged in theory-building and research agendas focused on racial capitalism, or the notion that capitalism depends upon the social construction of race to produce and extract value. Among other areas, geographers have examined political ecologies of racial capitalism (Heynen 2016, Ranganathan 2016), racial capitalism and social reproduction (Bhattacharya 2018), and financialization (Bonds 2018). Notably, junior scholars in particular have circulated increasing numbers of racial capitalism reading lists and created syllabi centered on Melamed’s assertion that “capitalism is racial capitalism” (2015: 77). Yet there are also those who claim that the concept remains undertheorized and less than ubiquitous.

The paper session and panel are intended to bring together scholars working in literatures across economic, urban, labor, queer, Black, Indigenous and/or feminist geographies, and we are particularly interested in papers that engage with questions of method in the context of racial capitalism and that make epistemological connections between knowledge production and positionality. Other contributions might focus on the operationalization of racial capitalism itself: how is racialized value made? (Pulido 2017), and how can geographical theory illuminate the historical and contemporary socio-spatial processes through which racial difference is made to matter in the production of value?

More specifically, papers might engage with:

1. How scholars operationalize theories of racial capitalism within their existing research agendas, and how doing so shifts or otherwise affects research priorities
2. How analytical frameworks may be designed for researching racial capitalism
3. Current and possible limits of racial capitalism as an explanatory tool
4. Consideration of racial capitalism in comparative contexts, including across global North/South


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Caroline Ponder University of British Columbia 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Melanie Sommerville*, Dept of Geography, UBC, From accumulation by dispossession to accumulation by reparations? Land, racial capitalism, and the contemporary reconstitution of white privilege 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Hilda Kurtz*, University of Georgia, Racial capitalism and the shifting apparatuses of unfree labor 20 8:40 AM
Discussant Yui Hashimoto Dartmouth College 20 9:00 AM

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