English 188A - Winter, 2019

Topics in Literary & Critical Theory

    Topic: Racial Capitalism

Class Information

Instructor: Jerng, Mark
CRN: 54933
Time: TR 12:10-1:30
Location: 248 Voorhies


    This seminar understands racial capitalism as an interpretive lens for analyzing the processes of capital accumulation and circulation as inseparable from processes of racialization. It is a framework that focuses on several levels of this mutual formation: capital accumulation that relies on and reproduces notions of racial difference and that requires and moves through relations of severe inequality; the development of social separateness to feed particular capital flows and relations; violent dispossession/conquest and its links to social reproduction. We will not take the term “racial capitalism” for granted. We will begin by examining some of the key works that detail and explicate racial capitalism as a framework alongside competing descriptions that stress the linkages between capitalism and freedom. We will focus on competing conceptions of freedom that shape the making and unmaking of places and social relations. Throughout the quarter, we will read a variety of literary and artistic genres that represent and mediate key linkages and modes of racial capitalism: personhood; property; exchange; freedom; extraction; colonialism; futurity; debt; value; interconnected geographies.

    Focusing on artistic genres will highlight the particular capacities and traditions that they afford. Autobiography and its particular conventions for thinking through personhood; romance in its capacity to interconnect spaces; science fiction and its imagination of futurity, etc. As such, genres work within and against the limits of “capitalism’s capacity to create entirely new categories of human experience stripped bare of the historical consciousness embedded in culture” (C Robinson). They also open up possibilities for reconfiguring the places and social relations framed by the imperatives of racial capitalism. Readings will be drawn from works by Samuel Delany, W.E.B. DuBois, Cheryl Harris, Robin Kelley, Larissa Lai, Nancy Leong, Eugene Lim, Jodi Melamed, Ann Petry, Cedric Robinson, Hortense Spillers, Karen Tei Yamashita, among others.


    Research Paper
    Rough Draft Assignment
    Short Critical Reflection Papers
    In-Class Presentation


    Wild Seed, Octavia Butler
    Salt Fish Girl, Larissa Lai
    Through the Arc of the Rainforest, Karen Tei Yamashita
    Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, Samuel Delany
    Godshaper, Steve Spurrier
    Dear Cyborgs, Eugene Lim