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Racism, Bodies, and Everyday Life: Modalities of Racial Capitalism from Molecules to the State III

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group, Latinx Geographies Specialty Group
Organizers: Carrie Freshour, Brian Williams
Chairs: Ashante Reese


Racism, Ruth Wilson Gilmore writes, is the ‘state-sanctioned and/or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death’ (Gilmore 2007, 247). As a differential valuation of lives, labor, and life, and a means by which violence is sanctioned, racism is integral to capitalist social relations (Gilmore 2002, Robinson 1983). This can take a variety of forms: the expansion of the carceral state across four of NYC’s boroughs, the intentionally unequal distribution of food by global corporations, and the raiding and forced detention of over 700 undocumented immigrants across seven Mississippi poultry plants. Differential valuation of life is also felt in and by bodies, in hands and joints of factory workers, in the lungs and tissues of farmworkers, and in the minds of prisoners who wait day in and out in solitary confinement. Yet, against and beyond racial capitalism’s structuring of everyday life, people and movements struggle to create spaces of resistance, refusal, self-reliance, and collective flourishing.

We orient our session around one central question: How do we understand racial capitalism across scales, from the most intimate and embodied to the global? Additionally, we ask: How does the materiality of racism, and particularly anti-Black racism, shape how people live, move, work, and care for one another? What are the forms of state sanctioned racism (i.e. regulations, technologies, and infrastructures) shaping the modalities of life? How might such “practices of dehumanization tune us into the relational workings of human life” (McKittrick 2011, 956)?
What are the sites, practices, and orientations, of resistance and refusal?

This session seeks to bring together papers which examine a) the multi-scalar ways in which racism shapes and differentiates the material organization of capitalist processes, and/or b) the ways in which the death-dealing materiality of racism is challenged.

We welcome papers that address one or more of the following themes:

Toxicity and environmental racism as modalities of uneven capitalist development
Forms of biopolitics and gendered/raced subjectivities
Material expressions of discipline and surveillance
Growth, expansion, and contestation of the carceral state
The naturalization and ordering of embodied inequalities through racism
The means through which racism becomes embedded in technological fixes to capitalist crises
Building alliances and solidarity through relational and connective understandings of racial capitalism
Ongoing practices of resistance and refusal
Racial capitalism and food justice/sovereignty
Environmental justice and abolition ecologies


Benjamin, R. 2019. Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Benjamin, R. (Ed.). 2019. Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Bledsoe, A. and W.J. Wright. 2019. “The anti-Blackness of global capital.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 37(1): 8-26.

Bledsoe A, McCreary T and Wright W. 2019. Theorizing diverse economies in the context of racial capitalism. Geoforum.

Daigle M and Ramírez MM. 2018. Decolonial Geographies. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography.

Gilmore, R.W.. 2006. Golden Gulag : Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Gilmore, R.W. 2002. “Fatal Couplings of Power and Difference : Notes on Racism and Geography Notes on Racism and Geography.” The Professional Geographer. 54(1): 15-24.

Guthman J. 2011. Bodies and Accumulation: Revisiting Labour in the ‘Production of Nature’. New Political Economy 16(2): 233–238.

Hartman, S. 2019. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments. New York: W.W. Norton.

Heynen N. 2016. Urban political ecology II: the abolitionist century. Progress in Human Geography 40(6): 839.

Holmes, S. 2013. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Lipsitz, G. 2011. How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

McKittrick K. 2011. On plantations, prisons, and a black sense of place. Social & Cultural Geography 12(8): 947–963.

Pulido, L. 2017. “Geographies of race and ethnicity II: Environmental racism, racial capitalism and state-sanctioned violence.” Progress in Human Geography. 41(4): 524-533.

Reese, A. 2019. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. Durham, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

Robinson, C. 1983. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. London: Zed Books.

Vasudevan, P. 2019. “An Intimate Inventory of Race and Waste.” Antipode. 0(0): 1-21.

Woods, C.A. 2017. Development Arrested : The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta. 2nd ed. New York: Verso.

Wright, W.J. 2018. “As Above, So Below: Anti-Black Violence as Environmental Racism. Antipode. 0(0): 1-19.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Brian Williams*, Mississippi State University, Pavithra Vasudevan, University of Texas at Austin, Bioaccumulation: Chemical Geographies of Racial Capitalism 15 12:00 AM
Presenter AJ Rice*, Michigan State University, “Reform” and Racial Dispossession: Detroit Public Schools and the Production of Austerity Urbanism 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Carrie Freshour*, University of Washington, 'We're basically livin' here!' Speedups, Slowdowns, and Premature Disability at the Poultry Plant 15 12:00 AM
Discussant Yui Hashimoto Dartmouth College 15 12:00 AM

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