English 233 - Winter, 2018

Problems in American Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Jerng, Mark, Agarwal, Neil
CRN: 75174
Time: M 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies


The realm of the economic itself has increasingly been understood as performance and as social construction. Economic truths are often not derived from fact but from affect and from cultural production. For example, the idea that undocumented immigrants are a drain on the economy continues to circulate as economic knowledge. Derived from folk racism, this idea continues to drive public policy and debates. What happens when we think of archives like novels, performance, film, TV, visual culture, music, social media as part of the circulation, production, and contestation of economic knowledge? Instead of using a top-down model in the production of economic knowledge, we are interested in the dynamic circulation of racial knowledges, economic and social policy, economic behavior, and cultural production. Culture, here, is not merely consumer culture or cultural practices but rather ways of knowing and of producing affect that shape the formation of the economic. Such conversations bring into focus the relationships between, for example, speculative fiction and speculation, cultural production and the racialized processes of market demographics, economic knowledge and the commodification of race and gender; the role of legal doctrine and public policy rhetoric in the production of “economics” as an objective science.

This seminar begins by introducing conceptual frameworks central to the idea of racial capitalism. We then work through readings that highlight culture as a site of analysis by focusing on three aspects: culture as an active element in an existing social formation; the possibility of more expansive capacities embedded in cultural practices; and the way in which the concept of culture has been used to represent colonial and racial difference. We will anchor our analysis of “cultures of racial capitalism” with three objects of literary/cultural phenomena. Along the way, we will be discussing methods and approaches that bring together frameworks and histories of racial capitalism, the analytics of culture, and textual/visual production.

Readings may include works by James Baldwin, Samuel Delany, W.E.B. DuBois, Stuart Hall, Cheryl Harris, bell hooks, Nalo Hopkinson, Robin Kelley, George Lipsitz, Mahmood Mamdani, Jodi Melamed, Fred Moten, M. NourbeSe Philip, Cedric Robinson, Hortense Spillers, Patricia Williams, and Karen Tei Yamashita