January – Race and the Human

Unpayable Debt

World political map, Robinson projection, with south pointing up.

Classical liberalism leveraged and authorized racial distinctions as part of the Transatlantic commercial world that included the slave trade. Is the same true for neoliberal global markets?

How should we connect populist neo-racism—intensified Islamophobia, the “rebirth” of white supremacy, resurgent anti-Semitism—with the racial and ethnic stakes of neoliberalism?

What racial knowledges underpin contemporary neoliberalism, and how have they been produced as knowledges in the first place?

What myths about “race” and failures to specify “the human” underpin anxieties of nationalism that are manifest in contemporary neo-populist movements?

How has race been made to serve the aims of neoliberal capital, and in what ways might human rights discourses, including discourses of dehumanization and subjectivation, also be conscripted in service of capital’s ends? What is the “reason” of race? Is there a subject to be specified beyond or outside of extant discourses on race and the human? What forms of rationality underlie these questions?

We are joined this week by Denise Ferreira da Silva, author of numerous works including the field-clearing monograph Toward a Global Idea of Race (2007), on the careers of the post-Enlightenment subject she terms the “transparent I” and the role that race has played in modern scientific and historical thought. Ferreira da Silva has shown that raciality functions through logics of exclusion and obliteration that serve capital. Her forthcoming Unpayable Debt continues her longstanding interrogation of the relationships between race, colonialism, and global capital and the question of the “im/possibility of global/racial justice.” Our conversation will extend to topics including contemporary discourses of post-racialism and technoliberal futurity, and it will lay the groundwork for next month’s seminar on neoliberalism and Subjectivity.

Curators: Lee Medovoi (UArizona English) and Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan (UArizona English)

Lecture (open to the public): Thursday, January 14, 2021, 6-7:30pm MST

Seminar: Friday, January 15, 2021, 11am-12:30pm MST


Ferreira da Silva

An academic and practicing artist, Dr. Denise Ferreira da Silva’s work addresses the ethico-political challenges of the global present. She is the author of Toward a Global Idea of Race (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), A Dívida Impagavel (Oficina da Imaginaçāo Política and Living Commons, 2019), Unpayable Debt (Stenberg/MIT Press, forthcoming) and co-editor (with Paula Chakravartty) of Race, Empire, and the Crisis of the Subprime (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Her several articles have been published in leading interdisciplinary journals, such as Social TextTheory, Culture & SocietySocial Identities, PhiloSOPHIA, Griffith Law Review, Theory & Event, The Black Scholar, to name a few. Her artistic works includes the films Serpent Rain (2016) and 4Waters-Deep Implicancy (2018)in collaboration with Arjuna Neuman; and the relational art practices Poethical Readings and Sensing Salon, in collaboration with Valentina Desideri. She has exhibited and lectured at major art venues, such as the Pompidou Center (Paris), Whitechapel Gallery (London, MASP (Sāo Paulo), Guggenheim (New York), and MoMa (New York). She has also written for publications for major art events (Liverpool Biennale, 2017; Sao Paulo Biennale, 2016, Venice Biennale, 2017, and Documenta 14) and published in art venues, such as Canadian ArtTexte Zur Kunst, and E-Flux.


Seminar readings (PDFs are password protected):

(1) Denise Ferreira da Silva, "Introduction: A Death Foretold" from Toward a Global Idea of Race (2007)

Denise Ferreira da Silva- A Death Foretold_from Toward a Global Idea of Race.pdf

(2) Denise Ferreira da Silva, "Unpayable Debt: Reading Scenes of Value against the Arrow of Time" and "On Matter Beyond the Equation of Life" (2017)

Denise Ferreira da Silva- Unpayable Debt_and_On Matter Beyond the Equation of Value.pdf

(3) Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora, "The Surrogate Human Affect: The Racial Programming of Robot Emotion," Chapter 4 from Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures (2019)

Atanasoski and Vora_The Surrogate Human Affect_2019.pdf

(4) Paula Chakravarty and Denise Ferreira da Silva, "Accumulation, Dispossession, and Debt: The Racial Logic of Global Capitalism--an Introduction" (2012)

Paula Chakravarty & Denise Ferreira da Silva- Accumulation, Dispossession, Debt.pdf

(supplemental) Denise Ferreira da Silva, "No-Bodies: Law, Raciality and Violence" (2009)