“Interdisciplinarity: Modes, Logics, Genealogies, and Reflections,” a lecture by Georgina Born (Oxford) – Response by Ian Nutting (Musicology)

[On April 27, 2019, the College of Fine and Applied Arts hosted a keynote address by Georgina Born (Oxford) entitled “Interdisciplinarity: Modes, Logics, Geneaologies, and Reflections,” as part of the 2019 Festival of the Arts, Design, and Planning Symposium. Below is a response by Ian Nutting (Musicology).]

Theorizing Interdisciplinarity: Georgina Born’s Relational Ontology of Interdisciplinary Autonomy                                                      Written by Ian Nutting (Musicology)

April 26-27 marked the end of the College of Fine and Applied Arts 2019 Festival of Arts, Design, and Planning. The final symposium, Methodologies, highlighted the breadth and diversity of the research methods employed by the faculty in the College, and featured both UIUC faculty and guest speakers. screen shot from FAA website The second of three keynote speakers, Professor Georgina Born (Oxford, Music and Anthropology), gave a talk entitled “Interdisciplinarity: Modes, Logics, Genealogies, and Reflections.” The following is a summary of and response to that talk.

Institutional and Historical Conditions

Following a general orientation to her ethnographic work on cultural production, which straddles the fields of music, anthropology, digital media studies, sociology, and sound studies, Born focused us on her current work: academic and nonacademic electronic and computer art music in the UK, Europe, and Montreal. As with much of her other ethnographic work, this is a kind of dialectics of institutional and socio-musical change. To frame her work, she laid out the institutional and historical conditions that have led to the rise of interdisciplinary art-science in the UK.

Born finds the seeds of interdisciplinary artistic research in the neoliberalization of the university. The emergence of the knowledge economy coupled with policies of measuring and evaluating the “impact” of research led to a crisis of value: what’s the use of art? Born draws attention to the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council’s Cultural Value Project as an example. This runs parallel with the assumed epochal shift to what has been called “Mode 2” knowledge production (see Gibbons et al.): scientifically autonomous and intra-disciplinary research has been replaced by context-based and accountable inter- and trans-disciplinary research. Born criticizes this theory for conceiving of this shift in “science” and “society” as unitary and homogenous: the particular genealogies of different disciplines, including the imbedded practices and motivations, are erased and unaccounted for. In one sense, Mode 2 could be viewed as exemplified in artistic research, and yet by working through Henk Borgdorff’s analysis of artistic research and Mode 2 knowledge production, Born is left with his conclusion that the central experiential component, that is, the aesthetic experience, ultimately seems to escape not only conceptual and discursive articulation, but also the epistemic frame. The point is that these difficulties make clear the need to empirically discern and analyze the phenomenon of interdisciplinary research in its particular formations, which is exactly what she did with a team of ethnographers starting in 2004.

Modes and Logics

Based on some of her work for that project on art-science interdisciplinarity, which is generally created at the intersection of the arts, natural science, and technology, Born outlined, and then located art-science in relation to, three modes and three logics of interdisciplinarity. These modes are 1) integrative-synthesis, an additive mode that produces something like “multi-disciplinarity,” 2) subordination-service, a hierarchical mode that produces a master-servant relationship between disciplines, and 3) agonistic-antagonistic, a mode that seeks a break with the individual disciplines by transcending a mere sum or combination of them. Examples of this final mode include cybernetics, science and technology studies, and the medical humanities, as well as art-science. The logics are 1) the logic of accountability, which is concerned with public understanding and engagement, 2) the logic of innovation, which is concerned with things like economic growth and the creative economy, and 3) the logic of ontology, which is concerned with not just an epistemological shift, but an ontological shift in the very conception of the subject and object in research to something always already social and relational. That is, the object being studied shifts to something that emerges through particular practices and yet is something that “grow[s] more richly real as [it] become[s] entangled in webs of cultural significance, material practices, and theoretical derivations” (Datson, 13). This third logic is tied closely to the third mode, but all three logics are entangled in interdisciplinary attempts.

book cover from routledge webpageThis typology of the modes and logics of interdisciplinary research allows Born and her colleagues to argue that the shift from the scientific autonomy of Mode 1 knowledge production to the context-based and accountability of Mode 2 knowledge production is an insufficient model for understanding the complexities of interdisciplinary research. When disciplinary assemblages align with the agonistic-antagonistic mode and logic of ontology, constellations of practices, methodologies, and sites of application can form objects and produce effects that are irreducible to the demands of context and accountability; what is produced by these assemblages is not merely something innovative for the knowledge economy or politically/socially/economically instrumental. That is, new fields like the medical humanities and art-science do inter-disciplinary work that is as autonomous as intra-disciplinary work. This claim has a number of consequences for how these interdisciplines are maintained, managed, and evaluated by the various institutional powers that fund and support them.


Born then highlighted her 2006-7 study of art-science research in the UK and the US, where she focused on the Arts Computation Engineering (ACE) graduate program at UC Irvine. Perhaps the most fundamental differences she found between the UK and US examples were the institutional and employment conditions, the particular and historically contingent arrangements of power and capital, which dramatically shaped the interdisciplinary possibilities of art-science. The funding schemes in the UK work more on a program and grant basis, which means art-science is produced in the subordination-service mode through the logics of accountability and innovation, meaning that labor is divided, and art often serves as public science engagement or as experimental research itself. The US, on the other hand, may have a corollary in grant-funded arts and innovation studios, but also has produced the UC Irvine example, where the interdisciplinary program was suspended between three different schools: arts, computer science, and engineering. This model of long-term sustainable funding and the radical entanglement of traditionally separate concerns like conceptual art, AI, and human agency, afforded the possibility of a kind of transcendence or sublation of labor divisions. Art-science here operated beyond the logics of accountability and innovation, beyond a basic contribution to public knowledge and the knowledge economy; it operated according to the logic of ontology in that it created new subject-object relations. Born recounted how the seminars pulled from scholarship in not only computer science, cybernetics, conceptual art, and art and technology studio labs, but also critical and feminist theory and science and technology studies. This synthesis of literature from a multiplicity of genealogies allowed for what Born calls a shifting between epistemological and ontological registers, in which things like computational power, situated cognition, and digital representation of the analog world ran together with feminist critiques of power.

So what did ACE actually do? Born presented a project by a member of the ACE program faculty, Beatriz da Costa, called PigeonBlog. It worked to track pollution in southern California by attaching pollution sensors to pigeons that would send live updates to an online map. The goal was to enlist the agential capacities of pigeons to elucidate the injustice of the production and distribution of pollution and the techniques used to measure the pollution by institutions in the area. The project was at once a conceptual art project, a feat of DIY engineering and computing, and a form of public engagement and environmental activism.

Capture 5.7
From Beatriz de Costa’s PigeonBlog


The Fate of ACE and Its Implications

The remainder of Born’s talk was mostly concerned with her insightful reflections on the points laid out above through numerous fascinating examples of music and art-science (for a sample check out Justin Yang’s Webwork I; NIME; Matilde Meireles and Rui Chaves’ Chasing ∞; Di Scipio’s Modes of Interference; Bob Ostertag’s Sooner or Later). The remainder of this blogpost offers a brief reflection on Born’s talk, starting with the end of the ACE program.

ACE disbanded and the faculty in the program returned to teaching in more traditional disciplines (Beatriz da Costa tragically passed in 2012 due to cancer). Ironically, ACE’s advantage contained the mechanism of ACE’s fall: sustained funding brought with it the need for evaluation and the establishment of institutional value. Unable to create criteria that deemed ACE as having institutional value, UC Irvine shut down the program.

The same neoliberalization of the university that created a culture of audit and evaluation both necessitates interdisciplinary work to justify the arts and humanities and negates the logic of ontology. As was established in the Q&A after Born’s talk, as well as at the final roundtable of the symposium, there are feasible, concrete steps that institutions can and should take in order to foster interdisciplinarity. Commitment to interdisciplinarity means a commitment to creating jobs for interdisciplinary scholars, so something like a revision of tenure procedures to better account for new kinds of work (something in which the FAA faculty showed great interest) is one of these possible steps. Furthermore, if we truly are committed to even attempting to meaningfully grasp or analyze inextricable, intractable, and incommensurable assemblages like racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and climate change, we might do well to continuously insist on institutional conditions that promote and foster the interdisciplinary logic of ontology. As we attempt to grapple with the spatial and temporal scales at which meaningful or sustainable change can occur, embracing and incubating interdisciplinarity and its radically new subject-object relations at the institutional level seems like a minimum requirement. For me, Born’s talk and the general reaction of the FAA faculty was a reminder to be sensitive to not only the potentialities afforded by the contradictions in neoliberalism and political economy, but also the local concrete actions capable of utilizing these contradictions.

“Racial Capitalism Now: A Conversation with Michael Dawson and Ruth Wilson Gilmore” – Response by Alyssa Bralower (Art History)

[On March 30, 2019, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted a final panel “Racial Capitalism Now: A Conversation with Michael Dawson and Ruth Wilson Gilmore,” which was moderated by Jodi Melamed (Marquette U) and Brian Jefferson (Geography. The panel featured a conversation between scholars Michael Dawson (U Chicago) and Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Grad Center, CUNY). Below is a response by Alyssa Bralower (Art History).]

Racial Capitalism Then and Now                                                  Written by Alyssa Bralower (Art History)

The conversation between Michael Dawson and Ruth Wilson Gilmore about contemporary forms of racial capitalism began with the history of Dawson’s and Gilmore’s engagement with issues of race and class in their scholarship and activism. This starting point is inspired by James Baldwin’s observation that “the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.”[1] The conversation that unfolded described the social issues and movements that Dawson and Gilmore were involved in early in their lives and a recognition that the field must adapt to the changing flows of capital and racial oppression that would require grappling with finance capitalism, global political economies, and the effects of climate change.

Brian Jefferson introduced the event by noting that Dawson and Gilmore are influential figures for a generation of scholars, many of whom had presented at the Racial Capitalism symposium throughout the weekend. Their influence inside and outside the academy emphasizes the importance of activism to theory, and the personal to the social. An undercurrent to the conversation emphasized the importance of generational legacies as a means of both historical preservation and the transmission of knowledge from one generation of scholars to another. Theories of racial capitalism, in the work of scholars like Cedric Robinson, Stuart Hall, and others emerged from Black activist and radical traditions that precede and continue to animate the academic field. Much of the conversation emphasized place, including the significance of cities such as Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit, as well as the way that activist movements often build alliances across differences of gender, race, and sexuality.

The conversation began with the specificity of California as a site for Dawson’s and Gilmore’s initial academic and activist work.[2] Dawson arrived in California as an undergraduate in the Bay Area, led there through an interest in activism that was spurred by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Dawson underscored the way in which academic research should inform and be informed by one’s activist and political projects. For him, an understanding of the political economy of race in the U.S. was essential for his work as an organizer.

For Dawson, a driving question has been why and how the Black Liberation Movement declined in the mid-1970s, when it fell apart “spectacularly and violently” in the Bay Area. While some of the problems that lead to the dissolving of these groups was “self-inflicted,” due to internal contradictions such as violence against women and homophobia within the Black Panther Party, the state played a central role in disbanding Black insurgency nationally and globally. One such state-led effort was the use of gentrification as a “defensive action,” through which the populations in long-standing Black and Japanese American neighborhoods were displaced. While studies of international political economy and its connection to racial oppression, labor, and industrialization/technological development existed, Dawson notes that there was a lack of information about such relations in the U.S as it pertained to race.

Dawson’s own subsequent experience working as an organizer in Silicon Valley informed his work in the field. Silicon Valley, which emerged as a tech-hub in the late 1960s as major corporations in the area backed the Vietnam War, is a microcosm of the relations between imperialism, racial oppression, and capitalism. Previous generations of scholars, such as Ralph Bunche, had studied Black politics, primarily at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). However, Dawson notes that the “field of racial politics had been defined previously as the racial attitudes of white citizens in the United States,” and the work that Dawson and his colleagues did was to redefine racial politics as the “the politics and movements of people of color.”

Braloer 1
Protestors blockade private shuttle carrying tech industry employees from their homes in San Francisco to their jobs at the company’s campus in Silicon Valley. Katy Steinmetz / TIME. Source.

Gilmore began by noting that she did not initially set out to write about prisons, as she does in her book Golden Gulag. [A New York Times Magazine profile, which appeared a few days after her talk at the conference, offers a detailed account of her political and philosophical evolution]. Gilmore recounted that living in Los Angeles, where she recognized the conditions of a changing landscape and economy, made her eventually want to study political economy. One of the remarkable things about L.A., Gilmore noted, is that the “contradictions are right on the surface.” Gilmore also discussed the legacy of the Black Panther Party, observing that the organization wasn’t necessarily dangerous because they condoned violence but because of their larger platform and successful programs. Indeed, Los Angeles chapter leaders John Huggins and Bunchy Carter were assassinated as students on the UCLA campus while they were headed to discuss campus curricula. For Gilmore, Huggins’ and Carter’s efforts to debate the future of campus curricula as students represents the type of action that strengthens Black Studies and work in the field of racial capitalism. Gilmore also credits Clyde Wood as a key figure in her thinking, whose influential 1998 study Development Arrested: the Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta argues for a study of political economy that accounts for cultural production, what Wood calls the “blues epistemology.”

Bralower 2
Bill Whitfield, member of the Black Panther chapter in Kansas City, serving free breakfast to children before they go to school. (Credit: William P. Straeter/AP Photo). Source.

In their acknowledgment of deep legacies within the Black radical tradition, as well as crucial work by Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American activist groups, both Gilmore and Dawson emphasized that our current political, economic, and social landscape is quite different from the earlier era.

A discussion of these legacies led to a discussion of contemporary issues of racial oppression, social justice, and economic inequality. Melamed asked how work on racial capitalism could be used to create reform and unify leftist movements. Dawson’s vision draws on earlier legacies of social reform such as Harry Haywood’s efforts in the early communist movements. A key element of leftist reform is for leftist groups to recognize that the movements for the liberation of people of color and black radical communities are central to revolution, not a distraction from the movement. Dawson also called for a better understanding of financial capitalism, and more nuanced analyses of the capitalism that governs the world.

Gilmore added that enlivening the concept of racial capitalism today requires projects that study political economies outside of the U.S. and Europe as a means of creating a more accurate reflection of global capitalism. Invoking Cedric Robinson, Gilmore maintained that capitalism and racial oppression co-developed, one is not necessarily a function of the other. To grapple with this requires studies that “combine specificity with the general trend of capitalism in the world today.” Gilmore cited examples such C.K. Lee’s work on women factory workers in China and Hong Kong and Vijay Prashad’s work on the Global South. Such studies as these have demonstrated that not all capital relations emanate from the global north, but all capital relations are racial. Furthermore, Gilmore also outlined that scholarship on racial capitalism needs to address both the vulnerabilities of the surface of the Earth and its inhabitants through work on climate change and land grabs. The effects of climate change, which vulnerable populations already experience, will create new forms of racial oppression.

Bralower 3
The magnitude of the 2018 wildfires in California are evidence of climate change, which affects vulnerable populations, such as those on the coasts first. Gilmore notes that natural disasters aren’t natural at all, but the result of systems built upon racial capitalism. 

Gilmore and Dawson noted that academic scholarship and activist movements operate on different temporalities, so it is important for students to pursue projects that produce knowledge for the social movements in which they are invested. Gilmore concluded by suggesting that the main project for racial capitalism now is to dismantle capitalism. For Gilmore, the undoing of capitalism is not merely a shift in the economic system, but a means of “transforming the world into a new series of economic, political, cultural, and other relations.”



[1] James Baldwin, “Unnameable Objects, Unspeakable Crimes,” 1966.

[2] Throughout the symposium, California and its many contradictions served as a site where discussions of both legacies and current developments in Racial Capitalism were grounded. Ofelia Ortiz Cueavas (UC Davis), presented on “California Racial Capitalism,” while Cheryl I. Harris (UCLA) discussed California’s 1850 “Act for Governance and Protection of Indians,” as an example of early laws that sought to present as “race-neutral,” but were mobilized against Indigenous populations and populations of color disproportionately. During the conversation between Dawson and Gilmore, Jodi Melamed noted that both Dawson and Gilmore share California as a “formative site of [their] thinking and activism.”



Racial Capitalism and Differential Rights – Response by Brenda Gisela Garcia (Anthropology)

[On March 30, 2019 the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted the panel “Racial Capitalism and Differential Rights,” which was chaired by Jodi Byrd (English/GWS) as part of the Racial Capitalism Symposium. The panel featured the following talks: “Administrating Today’s Racial Capitalism Through Differential Rights,” by Jodi Melamed (Marquette U) and Chandan Reddy (U Washington) and “‘She Was Only Trying to Save Her Life’: Disempowered by Self-Defense,” by Lisa Cacho (English). Below is a response by Brenda Gisela Garcia (Anthropology).]

Response to “Racial Capitalism and Differential Rights”
Written by Brenda Gisela Garcia (Anthropology)

The panel “Racial Capitalism and Differential Rights” gave the sensation of listening in to a conversation between long-term colleagues Jodi Melamed, Chandan Reddy and Lisa Marie Cacho. Together the panelists examined how deviant, non-heteronormative, and racialized populations became targets of differential rights through capitalist processes of valuation and devaluation.

In their paper “Administering Racial Capitalism and Differential Rights” Melamed and Reddy noted that while the notion of rights claims to provide access to political and economic freedom, the administration of rights in a capitalist system prioritizes accumulation over liberation and is shaped by racialized values.  For this reason, they propose looking at rights outside their liberal genealogy to understand how racialization and capitalism work together in the present.

Drawing on an analogy of glass to think about the concept of administrative power (and thanking Lisa Cacho for the analogy,) Reddy and Melamed explained that administrative powers “encase relations of circulation and violences in transparency. It is what you see through and don’t see and what is obvious and clear but made to appear untouchable. Under the language of liberalism, the administrative powers dematerialize the social and that makes it easy and permissible for a police officer to kill someone…Rule making and morally grounded law allows for the use of repressive force without the discourse of supremacy.”

Blog Post 1
“Besides Blackfire’s barite mine, the Canadian owned San Xavier mine site in San Luis Potosi has also been the site of conlifct between workers and residents.”

The administration of rights occurs globally, not only in the United States. In parts of the world where resource extraction fuels transnational economies, those perceived ungovernable are managed through bureaucracy, and rights are used to justify extractions. Under the notion of individuality, liberal self-possession, and personal responsibility, collective formations are reconstituted.

However, like glass that can shatter, social movements have the potential to shatter administrative regimes “and take aim at the capitalizing capacities.” Reddy and Melamed claim that the neutrality created through humanitarian as well as post-colonial law or civil rights spark scripts of opposition that strengthen relationalities between collectives. The collective becomes a weapon to counter the individualizing processes created by the administration of right as evident in the organizing of queer women of color against the deportation state.

By looking at criminalized populations of color, primarily black populations who are dehumanized and rendered disposable, Lisa Cacho seeks to answer the question, “Why don’t we have an ethical crisis?”   In her talk titled, “’She was Only Trying to Save Her Life’: Disempowered by Self-Defense,” Cacho examined the concept of “complex innocence” through the contradictions of self-defense law.

Cacho began by recounting the killing of Darnisha Harris. She was a young black girl shot by a white police officer.  She was violating her curfew when police arrived. This caused her to panic, get in her car and try to get away.

Blog Post 2
Darnisha Harris

In her panic, she hit a police car and a bystander with her own vehicle. Some witnesses said she had her hands up when Travis Guillot, the police officer, approached her. He was close enough to see that she was an unarmed child.  Yet, Guillot shot her using the claim of self-defense.  Cacho reminded the audience that this case and many others like it show that children are usually perceived as innocent, except black children.

Cacho began to answer her question about why such killings have produced no ethical crisis by using the concept of complex innocence. While policemen across the country who kill people of color often justify their actions through self-defense law, innocent people of color continue to be criminalized and killed. Darnisha, for example, could not be read as fearing for her life or attempting self-preservation. Cacho drew from media and police reports to show that she was probably trying to escape being taken into custody. Meanwhile, Darnisha’s brother did not deny she was violating curfew, but believed that in her encounter with the police, she was just trying to save her life.

Cacho examined the colonial history and administrative power of self-defense law. Before the United States existed, self-defense law and the “right to bear arms” allowed the dispossession of indigenous peoples and lands. While black people could defend themselves under self-defense law (against indigenous communities whom black people encountered while escaping white violence), it was only because they were perceived as a source of productive labor. Similarly, enslaved black women could not be victims, but were often criminalized. These colonial hauntings became present in the premature death of Darnisha Harris.

When self-defense law allows police to kill a perceived perpetrator, the murder is justified. Cacho highlights that self-defense law grants police an opportunity to narrate their story as noble or heroic, while denying black people the chance to defend themselves. Police take away the complex innocence of people of color even as society views people of color as perpetrators and violent offenders.

Speaking of complex innocence, Cacho said “Complex innocence means that people’s responses to being caught are not necessarily proportionate to their wrongdoings. People mess up, lie, and panic even when they do nothing wrong because sometimes they are responding to their family’s social relations or their neighborhood’s racial history more than to their in-the-moment experience. To respect a person’s complex innocence means respecting their humanity, being mindful of their dignity, and suspending judgment until they tell their own stories from their own point of view.” In practice, complex innocence  is often afforded only to white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgendered men, especially state agents and law enforcement.  Only the most “privileged can be both victims and agents.”


“Racial Legacies of Debt, Development, and Investment” – Response by Lila Ann M. Dodge (Anthropology)

[On March 30, 2019, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted the panel “Racial Legacies of Debt, Development and Investment,” which was chaired by Susan Koshy (Director, Unit for Criticism) as part of the Racial Capitalism symposium. The panel featured the following talks: “Debt, Development and Dispossession: Afterlives of Slavery,” by Cheryl Harris (UCLA) and “‘In Search of the Next ‘El Dorado’: Mining for Capital in a Frontier Market with Colonial Legacies,” by Kimberly Kay Hoang (U Chicago). Below is a response by Lila Ann M. Dodge (Anthropology).]

Between a New Global Order and the Enduring Matrix of Dispossession
Written by Lila Ann M. Dodge (Anthropology)

On March 29th and 30th, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory brought together several generations of thinkers and activists working on sites where the racial underpinnings of contemporary capitalism are being rearticulated or exposed in new ways. The symposium’s title, Racial Capitalism, refers to the foundational theorization of “racial capitalism” by the late political and cultural theorist Cedric Robinson: in his 1983 work Black Marxism, Robinson argued that capitalism developed within European societies that were already deeply racialist. The Black radical thinkers whose work Robinson analyzes in part three of the book—W. E. B. DuBois, C. L. R. James, and Richard Wright—eventually found Marxism inadequate for their purposes because it did not own up to its own racialist underpinnings. Chaired by Susan Koshy, the panel, “Racial Legacies of Debt, Development, and Investment,” brought Cheryl Harris and Kimberly Kay Hoang into conversation around financial, legal, and geographic dimensions of contemporary practices of wealth accumulation and its correlate racial dispossession.

Second edition book cover of Robinson’s Black Marxism, published by the University of North Carolina Press, 2000. 

Dr. Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the UCLA School of Law, presented a paper titled “Debt, Development, and Dispossession: Afterlives of Slavery.” She began by recognizing the traditional native land on which the event took place, and with an “incantation,” a quote from James Baldwin stressing the persistence of history in the present. Harris examined debt as a mechanism that, precisely by means of the law, serves ongoing capital accumulation through the dispossession and expropriation of the labor—and assets—of people and communities of color in the United States. Building on her earlier work on the fusion of whiteness and property in the U.S. legal system, Harris asked how “the throw-away” is given value, and led the audience through a series of historical, legal, and critical moments that reveal how the “afterlife of slavery” inhabits a “race-neutral” system, reproducing racial dispossession that generates profit for the state and other privileged parties.

Spurred by the work of artist Cameron Rowland, Harris began by underlining the productivity of incarceration. The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865, made slavery illegal in the U.S. except “as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Harris argues that the 13th Amendment thereby transferred the right to use unfree labor from private individuals to the state. Today, the products of prisoners’ labor that Rowland exhibits are sold through nonprofits to government agencies: Harris suggests that, under austerity conditions, these products represent “savings” to the state that are worth more than the profit they might make on the public market.

Cameron Rowland’s Leveler (Extension) Rings for Manhole Openings, 2016. Cast aluminum, pallet, distributed by Corcraft, 118 x 127 x 11 inches. Rental at cost. As pictured in Terence Trouillot’s article “Cameron Rowland 91020000” for The Brooklyn Rail, March 4th, 2016.

The policing practices that the people of Ferguson, Missouri, brought to public attention following the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 made Harris’ second focal moment. Far in advance of Brown’s murder, the city of Ferguson was issuing arbitrary municipal citations which were overwhelmingly levied on African Americans: the resulting fines generated income for the city, or if unpaid, arrests and time behind bars. The Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department published in 2015 states on page two that “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” It likewise confirms racial bias in the police department and court, citing “emails circulated by police supervisors and court staff that stereotype racial minorities as criminals” (page 5). Harris turned to the 19th century to show how these practices issue from a long history of operating debt and development as a “race neutral means of implementing racial dispossession.”

Though the United States expanded territorially from East to West, Harris argued that innovations in racial dispossession also moved West to East. California entered the Union as a “free state” in 1850, yet racial subordination underwrote its development. In California’s “narrative of development,” Harris noted, “the project of racial conquest was justified as bestowing benefit on populations in need of improvement.” Harris highlighted California’s 1850 “Act for Governance and Protection of Indians,” which includes some of the first known laws prohibiting and penalizing vagrancy. Under this law, any Indian considered by a white person to be loitering or vagrant could be arrested and penalized with forced labor, which was moreover leased out to individuals. Comparing these to the Black Codes and subsequent laws passed in Southern states after the Civil War, Harris showed how the California vagrancy laws provided a model for post-Emancipation laws that ostensibly lie on race-neutral ground but effectively criminalize unemployment and homelessness, and innovated forms of debt-peonage, convict-leasing and chain-gang labor that produced value through the enforcement of these laws.

Harris concluded by unpacking two current cases where “debt crises” are enabling collective dispossession. In Flint, Michigan, the majority African-American city’s debt prompted the state governor to appoint an emergency manager who switched Flint’s water supply in order to save money, but this debt was produced partly by the state’s reduction of revenue to the city. With the ensuing water crisis, Harris contends that debt was offered in solution as well, by increasing Flint’s borrowing power to participate in creating a regional water authority. In Los Angeles, California, Harris traces new predatory lending in the name of “improvement” that disproportionally put people of color into subprime loan status. LA County’s PACE program offers energy efficient home improvements for low and medium income households, paid for by a lien taken against the house. The subcontractors for the program sold “improvements” to homeowners with large price-tags and limited proof of efficacy that have left people with large debts that they cannot afford, that lead swiftly to foreclosures, and that are concentrated in neighborhoods where people of color live. Harris notes that the narrative of improvement continues to serve racial dispossession through permanent emergencies that allow for increased surveillance of cities and neighborhoods and the extraction of “savings.” In Harris’ analysis, the “hollowing out” of value of black geographies and assets actually increases their value, in terms of potential return on debt and investment.

Map of neighborhoods affected by PACE loan debt, as shown in Dr. Harris’ presentation. Produced by Public Counsel, “Nemore v. Renovate America and Ocana v. Renew Financial: Frequently Asked Questions.”

Dr. Hoang, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, presented an excerpt from her current book project, Playing in the Gray, in a paper titled “In Search of the Next ‘El Dorado’: Mining for Capital in a Frontier Market with Colonial Legacies.” In it she studies those at the opposite end of the processes Harris described: the people “who operate with great impunity” in achieving profit, under the aegis of the law. She began by referencing the Panama Papers leak and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), two scandals that rocked global finance in 2015, exposing the involvement of political figures and offshore entities in massive accumulation of wealth. Yet Hoang focuses on the smaller transactions, between less prominent people in smaller developing countries, fueling the new global order: the rise of East and Southeast Asia and the declining dominance of the U.S. and Europe now divides the world between “ultra-high net-worth individuals and poor people in both contexts.” Hoang is researching the social relationships that enable investments: sketching a global network of individuals, her qualitative work counters the impossibility of statistically tracing the national origin of capital flows given that investments pass through complex national circuits, tagged only in the final country before investment.

Map produced by Statista.

Hoang presented some of her data on investment in Vietnam, analyzing capital flows in and out of the country through a postcolonial lens. Vietnam’s economy is increasingly dominated by inter-Asian capital, which new competition between the U.S. and China and the regulatory outcomes of the 2008 financial crisis facilitate by allowing Vietnamese businesspeople and politicians to turn down Western money in favor of Asian investment. Nevertheless, U.S. investors still have a role to play in Vietnam’s speculative market: linking her presentation to Harris’, Hoang noted how “narratives of development bestow this precious boon” of profit, as illustrated by her interview excerpts with an American running speculative mining operations in Vietnam.

In a context of “heterogeneous state-market relations,” access to Vietnamese markets requires connections with the Communist party. For foreign investors, Hoang contends, “the speculation is socialized through personal ties that shape markets and mitigate risk” especially by giving investors an apparently insider view of the market. However, behind the opacity of legal structures and information, foreign investors take the initial risk of expending large amounts of capital in “frontier” markets to discover a new “El Dorado,” but Vietnamese government officials are able to push them out once a market has been developed. Hoang describes this as a reconstitution of historical dynamics of globalization, as patterned by colonization, neoliberalism, and competition between state capital and private capital. She concluded by turning back to the U.S., citing Penny Pritzker’s transfer of her offshore accounts to a Delaware company benefiting her children after she became U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

The question and answer session began the important work of mapping Harris’ and Hoang’s insights together within an analytic of racial capitalism. Hoang expressed uncertainty about how racial logic functions at her global scale of analysis, given that the ultra-rich she studies tend to identify as “global citizens.” It might be just here that Harris’ work on whiteness as property is applicable. The convergence of Hoang’s and Harris’ attention on legal codes and on the production of “frontiers” seem to be promising launch-pads for further conversation.

“Undermining Indigenous Sovereignty: Techniques of Wastelanding and Welfare Provision” – Response by Austin D. Hoffman (Anthropology)

[On March 29, 2019, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted the panel “Undermining Indigenous Sovereignty: Techniques of Wastelanding and Welfare Provision,” which was chaired by Jenny Davis (UIUC) as part of the Racial Capitalism symposium. The panel featured the following talks: “Settler Colonialism’s Hiroshima,” by Iyko Day (Mt. Holyoke) and “‘There for the Taking’: Colonial Entitlement and the Relations of Reproduction,” by Alyosha Goldstein (U New Mexico). Below is a response by Austin D. Hoffman (Anthropology).]

Defining the Social Technologies of Non-Worlding: Challenging Nuclear Hegemony and Neoliberal Colorblindness

Written by Austin D. Hoffman (Anthropology)

As Frantz Fanon wrote in his seminal work The Wretched of the Earth, “Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched every time we have to do with the colonial problem.” This analytical stretching is precisely what Professors Iyko Day and Alyosha Goldstein employed in their panel entitled “Undermining Indigenous Sovereignty: Techniques of Wastelanding and Welfare Provision,” for the Unit’s Racial Capitalism symposium. Both scholars draw from neo-Marxist theories to highlight the ongoing processes of dispossession and accumulation that are constitutive of settler colonial racial capitalism. In doing so, their presentations echo Patrick Wolfe’s pithy statement—now almost taken as a truism—that settler colonialism “is a structure not an event.”

Day began her talk, “Settler Colonialism’s Hiroshima,” by taking up the question of how the 1945 atomic bombings in Japan structure our knowledge of a post-war, nuclearized world, and how the dominant perceptions of this event rely on forms of “colonial unknowing,” a concept that Goldstein helped theorize. By mapping capitalism’s logistical networks, she traces a “supply chain of violence” back to the sites of accumulation that allowed for the production of these weapons of mass destruction in the first place. Some of these sites include the Belgian Congo, the Northwest Territories in Canada, and Navajo communities in New Mexico. These areas have been disastrously affected by uranium mining, radioactivity, and nuclear testing. Uranium mining in particular requires hyper-exploitable and disposable labor; yet even though Indigenous lands, resources, and workers are essential to nuclear modernity, they are construed as non-places and non-persons by the settler colonial state. While connecting these geopolitical dots, Day uses Robin Kelley’s critique of Wolfe to call attention to the fact that settler colonial studies has often obscured or entirely erased the experiences of African peoples. Citing the example of South Africa, Kelley challenges Wolfe’s assertion that settlers only wanted Native land and not their labor, and argues that proletarianization can also be a fundamental goal of the settler state. As he puts it, “[t]hey wanted the land and the labor, but not the people.”

Day’s examples of Indigenous nuclear non-sites also demonstrate how colonial land theft and capitalistic worker exploitation operate in tandem to create “radioactive wastelands of logistical violence.” It is here that she revisits Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation, as described in Capital. More specifically she uses Rosa Luxemburg’s reformulation of primitive accumulation as a continuing element of capitalist expansion, rather than a discrete and temporary phase of capitalism as Marx theorized. By viewing these radioactive wastelands as new frontiers of extraction, Day shows how imperial capitalism’s logistical operations function as “the handmaiden of a perfected, systematic, contemporary form of primitive accumulation.” Part of what allows this ongoing dispossession is the symbolic power of uranium itself. Day illustrates this through Ryan Coogler’s wildly popular film Black Panther. In the film, the fictitious metal vibranium, which serves as a metaphor for uranium, is the source of immense magical and deadly powers. The film fits in with a long tradition of popular discourse about uranium that views the chemical element as an almost otherworldly and limitless fount of energy. The fact that the hero Black Panther’s powers emanate from it is indicative of, as Day says, the “hegemonic ability of uranium to manufacture consent as humanity’s green energy savior, while simultaneously being the apocalyptic symbol of military annihilation.”

From Allan deSouza’s Terrain series (a slide from Day’s lecture). Entitled Terrain 8. Medium: Hair, eyelashes, and ear wax. Source: http://allandesouza.com/index.php?/photography/terrain00/.

How can such a magical hegemony be challenged? How might the violent non-worlding of Indigenous peoples and the occlusion of living labor be subverted? Day attempts to do this by examining Asian and Asian-American visual culture. By connecting nuclear non-sites to the works of multi-media artist Allan deSouza and sculptor Takahiro Iwasaki, Day endeavors to rethink these spaces and histories outside of anthropocene cataclysms. Popular media of nuclear disasters and fallout (what some refer to as “ruin porn”) rarely includes human beings. Consider the iconic image of the mushroom cloud rising over Hiroshima, the eerie deserted cityscapes of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, or even the “blighted” neighborhoods of post-industrial Detroit. They all give the impression of a gradual process of degradation devoid of human agency and labor; they serve as abstractions perpetuating what Marx called “the phantom-like objectivity of capital.” Both deSouza and Iwasaki reveal the abstractions of capitalist production by using forms of detritus. In deSouza’s Terrain series, he uses his own bodily detritus—eyelashes, ear wax, nail clippings, and pubic hair—as a medium to construct grotesque landscapes that subtly satirize the masculinist and nationalist motifs in the art and photography of American 19th and 20th century artists like Thomas Cole and Ansel Adams (Day extensively unpacks the “romantic anticapitalist” ethos of these American icons in her book 2016 book Alien Capital). Through a less intimate but no less provocative medium, Iwasaki uses domestic detritus like towels, brushes, thread, duct tape, dust, and other mundane items to construct architectural miniatures of landmarks and sceneries that not only mirror the imagery of desertion and disaster, but also preserve Japan’s industrial past.

From Takahiro Iwasaki’s Out of Disorder series. Entitled Out of Disorder (Mountains and Sea). Medium: Sheets, towels, thread, dust. Source: https://japanobjects.com/features/takahiro-iwasaki.

Day argues that these artistic works recast the wasteland as a vision of the real, thus decommodifying and defetishizing it. deSouza’s queering of the idyllic colonial landscape and Iwasaki’s repurposing of anthropocene refuse serve as visual allegories of capitalist abstraction. Viewed together, they recenter the human labor at the heart of nuclear modernity, as well as the lives it continues to ravage. Their art demystifies the capitalist social relations that present themselves as opaque and objective, functioning, in Day’s words, as “repositories of the intimate, fleshy and filthy effects of historical processes that we have forgotten.”

Goldstein’s research also endeavors to unravel the tortuous logics of colonialism in the present. Like Day, he focuses on Indigenous dispossession, but does so by analyzing sites of social reproduction rather than sites of accumulation. His paper, “There for the Taking: Colonial Entitlement and the Relations of Reproduction,” takes a Marxist-feminist approach to explore the “perpetual remaking” of gendered and racialized capitalist social relations, with a particular focus on how certain forms of social reproduction also reproduce a chronic vulnerability to violence and violation. Goldstein examines American adoption and foster care systems as imperialist and white supremacist social technologies that preempt Indigenous futurity. He points out that he is not speaking against the legitimacy of adoption and foster care in general, but only insofar as they operate as an “ensemble of colonial practices.” His paper centers on the 2018 Brackeen v Zinke decision in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, which granted custody of a two-year-old Navajo-Cherokee boy to a white couple against the wishes of the Navajo Nation. This case is poised to undermine the protections of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). As the Bureau of Indian Affairs states, this act was instituted to “protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.” But right-wing advocacy groups such as the Goldwater Institute have challenged the constitutionality of ICWA by claiming that it is a “racist” law that grants “special rights” to tribal nations, which they allege undermines US sovereignty. Even though the Brackeens won their case, several other states and couples have since joined them to pursue further litigation in an effort to declare the entirety of ICWA as unconstitutional.

Goldwater Institute Logo. The Goldwater Institute is a right-wing think tank leading the litigation against ICWA. It was founded in 1988, named in honor of the arch-conservative senator Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

There are obvious parallels between the attacks on ICWA and those against Affirmative Action and other anti-discrimination laws. As Goldstein pointed out, proponents of neoliberal colorblindness attempt to destroy institutional protections against racism and colonial dispossession through a litigious alchemy that somehow makes these same protections the source of racism and colonial dispossession. He has previously written about how these logics are premised on the idea that “specifying indigenous rights would contaminate the universal rights of humankind with a corrosive particularity.”

Goldstein situates the efforts to declare ICWA as unconstitutional alongside other settler colonial biopolitical weapons such as boarding schools, which “insinuate settler futurity over Indigenous life and social relations.” Since Native American children are placed in foster care at disproportionate rates, adoption policies that favor placement with heteronormative white families serve to erode and eliminate the kinship systems and sociohistorical continuity of First Nations. ICWA was passed as a defensive measure against this slow assimilationist violence. While Goldstein acknowledged in the Q&A that ICWA is problematic in some ways because it reinscribes biological frames of tribal citizenship, he is clear that litigation against ICWA is a transparent endeavor to preserve and extend the conditions of social reproduction of capitalism, private property relations, and normative sociality.

Parents gathered in support for the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) at a rally in South Dakota, 2013. Source: https://www.indianz.com/News/2013/03/29/native-sun-news-rally-in-suppo.asp

This talk resonated with Day’s by showing that the violent dispossession of Indigenous peoples is based on a denial of claims to both land and personhood. Indeed, for the colonizer, the legal doctrine of Fillius Nullius (nobody’s child) serves as an indispensable correlate to Terra Nullius (nobody’s land). By attending to the juridico-legal intricacies of capitalist social reproduction—a process that is inherently unstable and susceptible to sabotage—Goldstein gestures to the theoretical openings that allow us to imagine how things could be otherwise.

“What is the Racial in Racial Capitalism? Magic, Partition, Politics,” a lecture by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Grad Center, CUNY) – Response by Ezgi Guner (Anthropology)

[On March 29, 2019, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted a keynote address by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Grad Center, CUNY) entitled “What is the Racial in Racial Capitalism? Magic, Partition, Politics,” as part of the Racial Capitalism Symposium. Below is a response by Ezgi Guner (Anthropology]

Rehearsing the Revolution                                                        Written by Ezgi Guner

Early on a Friday morning, the Knight Auditorium was filled up for Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s keynote lecture, “What is the Racial in Racial Capitalism? Magic, Partition, Politics.” Not surprisingly, Professor Gilmore started off the Racial Capitalism conference with a quote from Black Marxism: “The tendency of European civilization through capitalism was thus not to homogenize but to differentiate-to exaggerate regional, subcultural, and dialectical differences into ‘racial’ ones.” Robinson

By revisiting Cedric Robinson, whose seminal work has laid the ground for all subsequent research in the field, Professor Gilmore reminded her audience that racial practice neither began with the development of capitalism nor has it emerged from the encounter with the non-European Others.

She then tied Robinson’s historical argument to her own conceptualization of racism as exposure of certain populations to premature death. Yet, Professor Gilmore warned the audience in a brief “scolding” moment to be mindful of how we deploy our concepts so that they won’t become the grease of the machinery we are trying to stop. The lecture was composed of two parts. The first and autobiographical part focused on the intellectual, theoretical, and political trajectory of a generation of activists and scholars gathered around the Southern California Reading Group in the late 1980s. The second part focused on the experiences of community organizing against prison expansion in Central California in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall

Being introduced to the works of Stuart Hall through his student Hazel Carby’s writing, the reading group explored not only a new theoretical model, but also new ways of engaging with theory. For Hall, social theory was action. It involved both analyzing and changing “the global maldistribution of material and symbolic resources.” Reading theory in order to recite was therefore bad reading. In becoming better readers, the group started rehearsing what they read through performance and improvisation as interpretive practices. Rehearsing required patience and a good amount of waiting and trying. To the organizers full of rage, C.L.R. James reminded, “revolutions happen because people wait and wait and try.”


In the second part of her lecture, Professor Gilmore turned to political struggles on the ground as rehearsals of freedom and read excerpts from the forthcoming second edition of Golden Gulag. Founded in 1998, the California Prison Moratorium Project reached out to locals who opposed the building of a new prison in their town and organized resistance at the grassroots level in solidarity with labor unions. A mobile organizing unit traveled across California and met farmers and farm workers in order to stop prisons that would render them and their loved ones vulnerable to incarceration, rehearsing the revolution. Professor Gilmore stressed the urgency of grassroots mobilization against prisons by remarking that 70 million people that make up half of the US workforce face structural impediments to employment because of arrest or conviction records.

William H. Johnson. Chain Gang. 1939-40. Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Later in the conference, extending the discussion from racial oppression and expropriation in the United States, to the workings of financialized capitalism in and across the global South, Professor Gilmore emphasized that every capitalism is racial capitalism. Even if the whites evaporated from the surface of the earth, capitalism would remain racist. After all, “capitalism requires inequality, and racism enshrines it.”


“Race, Capitalism & the Current Crisis: Conundrums for Those Who Envisage a Socialist Future,” a lecture by Michael Dawson (U of Chicago) – Response by Peter Thompson (History)

[On March 30, 2019, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory hosted a keynote address by Michael Dawson (U of Chicago) entitled “Race, Capitalism & the Current Crisis: Conundrums for Those Who Envisage a Socialist Future,” as part of the Racial Capitalism Symposium. Below is a response by Peter Thompson (History).]

An Optimistic Socialist Politics for Reparative Justice: Professor Michael Dawson’s Keynote Address for the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory’s Racial Capitalism Symposium                                                                                                                            Written by Peter Thompson

Michael Dawson’s keynote address for the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory’s Racial Capitalism conference examined the theoretical and political implications of his career-long work on black political thought and identity. D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, Dawson has filled a long and productive academic career with publications that probe the importance of a cohesive body of black thought for broader American political debates.

Dawson’s talk, entitled “Race, Capitalism, and the Current Crisis: Conundrums for Those Who Envisage a Socialist Future,” began by historically situating both radical black activism and the attempts to study that activism as a singular phenomenon. Dawson claims that various radical black movements throughout the 20th century have advocated for wholesale structural changes to American society with the intention of achieving a socialist future that resonates with many of today’s rejuvenated socialist visions. He admits, however, that many of the radical movements of the 1960s and 70s insisted on a prescriptive and normative politics that often discounted the varieties and complexities of difference. However, Dawson contends that the subsequent rise of particularism did not lead to the historical failures of the Left, as is sometimes claimed. In fact, it is crucial to recognize that different histories of oppression generated different demands and approaches to politics. For Dawson, the ultimate successes of any envisioned socialist regime are predicated on the political system’s ability to adjudicate between the various demands that these distinctive histories generate.

Dawson 1
Black Nationalism in Oakland, CA from Foundsf: Shaping San Francisco’s Digital Archive. 

In order to navigate this political negotiation, Dawson presents us with the “regimes of articulation” approach, which claims that “no social category exists in privileged isolation.” Pulling from Anne McClintock’s work, Dawson argues that each demarcation of social difference (e.g. race, gender, class) is set in relation to other categories of subjectivity. However, the power relationships between these categories can be uneven or contradictory in nature. For this reason, each relationship needs to be articulated within its historically specific regime of power. Dawson provides us with the example of “blackness,” which was articulated differently under Jim Crow, although perhaps no less violently, than it was under American slavery.

Drawing explicitly on Marx, Dawson further argues that these various relationships, at least in the American context, have always been mediated by capitalism. Traditionally, the capitalist system has lent overwhelming support to the dominant logic of patriarchy and white supremacy. However, Dawson reminds us that this is not always the case, and there are moments of tension where racism and sexism come into conflict with the unrelenting demands for labor exploitation. It is precisely these moments of crisis that create “pressure points” where progressive politics can make inroads. Dawson sees the growth of the anti-colonial, feminist, and black power movements throughout the middle of the twentieth century as examples of the successful navigation of these “pressure points.” He further believes that the contemporary moment provides us with a new crisis and a new opportunity for progressive gains.

Focusing more closely on issues of race, Dawson shifts to his political survey work in order to analyze both static and changing American attitudes towards black reparations. Dawson reveals that the majority of white survey respondents rejected the idea of either reparations or apologies for the historical and ongoing injustices of American slavery. Alongside tepid support from other American racial groups, this overwhelming white rejection has led many on the political Left to deem reparative justice a far too divisive topic for real political discussion. But, in referring back to his “regime of articulation” construction, Dawson insists that a functional reparative justice campaign needs to hold all people responsible for ongoing and past injustice. If taken seriously, this campaign would use all available methods, including but not limited to: truth and reconciliation hearings, educational outreach, changes to national monuments and the historical record, and aid programs for targeted groups. For Dawson, this reparative justice campaign is part of a moral imperative inherent to any truly social-democratic system.

Dawson 2
Cover from the International Socialist Review with articles on Black Lives Matter and the roots of the Black Panther Party. Content is “copyleft” by the International Socialist Review.

Dawson concludes by calling for an embrace of what he calls “pragmatic utopianism.” He fully embraces the power of utopian vision, rejecting those who place limits on the realm of possibility. The historical successes of progressive black movements, he argues, are a testament to the ability to push beyond the conceivable. However, pragmatism comes into play when entering into the political arena and strategizing the path towards the ideal. Dawson admits that this process has been troubled of late by the rapidly emerging environmental crisis. While granting that the “expropriation of the earth” has not been a significant focus within his research, he gestures to the work of John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark to point out that the exploitation of racially-specific labor has significantly contributed to the destruction of the Earth.

Audience questions initially revolved around Dawson’s survey work, asking whether similar studies had been done for indigenous peoples and how wording and context impacted survey responses. In response to a question regarding praxis that queried how one balances political demands and moral claims in the process of “pragmatic utopianism,” Dawson stated that while moral demands for justice should always remain central to our overall vision, pragmatic politics should effectively drive our push for specific gains. Subsequent questions returned to the environmental and probed the role of technology in both emancipatory and oppressive political regimes. Discussion then moved to the role of the academy in oppression, interrogating the ability of academics to enact real change. Finally, in a gesture towards the problems of today, Dawson was asked to illuminate the distinct “pressure points” in the contemporary political landscape. He quickly jumped to the fact that real wages are currently falling for most Americans, impelling some to attempt to maintain the illusion of social mobility in order to safeguard racial and gender hierarchies. However, in a moment of optimism, Dawson pointed to the open horizon of the political moment, insisting that the often-competing demands of the various groups within a “regime of articulation” would be hammered out through the intersectional approach of 21st century community politics. This, he rephrased in a subsequent response, is the act of “getting people to see the same world.”