Critical Ethnic and Race Studies

The Critical Ethnic and Racial Studies Research Working Group

CFP: “Emancipation Undone”

“The intervention made here is an attempt to recast the past, guided by the conundrums and compulsions of our contemporary crisis: the hope for social transformation in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the quixotic search for a subject capable of world-historical action, and the despair induced by the lack of one.” (Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America, 1997, p. 14)

Scholars across an array of disciplines have increasingly situated critical interventions into the contradictions and crises of the historical present—from ecology and the human, to capital and democracy—by foregrounding racial slavery as a structuring problematic of modern political life. Much of this work finds a generative foothold in the interventions Saidiya Hartman initiated and reanimated over twenty years ago, where she contended that any analysis of racialization must be conducted with regard to the history and theory of slavery, and that the political logic of racial slavery must become a fundamental locus of inquiry for political theory, cultural studies, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and Marxism (to name a few fields). This has yielded a powerful frame of historical analysis, and a new baseline for critical intervention: “the afterlife of slavery.”

In line with the general theme, “Interventions,” the Working Group on Racial and Ethnic Studies invites submissions of panels or individual papers for the CSA Annual Conference that advance interventions into the present by making the “afterlife of slavery” its reference. These papers may address, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • The analysis of racial slavery as an intervention in the critique of political economy
  • Libidinal enjoyment as a factor of racial subjection
  • Black Lives Matter and the incompleteness of emancipation
  • Historicizing the anthropocene and critiques of post-humanism
  • Critical race studies and the “limits of critique”
  • Black feminist and queer epistemological interventions
  • Antiblackness and the subject of the unconscious
  • Race, value, and abstraction
  • Global anti-capitalist struggle in the afterlife of slavery

Please submit a brief abstract (300 words or less) through the CSA submission system by its official deadline, currently: March 10, 2018 ( Applicants must be a member of the CSA to submit. Submissions can either be an individual paper or pre-constituted panel. Please indicate that you are applying to the Racial and Ethnic Studies Panel.

Questions? Contact the Co-Chairs of the Working Group on Racial and Ethnic Studies, Jaafar Aksikas (, Christopher Chamberlin (, and Patrice Douglass (

The Critical Ethnic and Racial Studies Research Working Group seeks to provide a much-needed, timely forum for cultural studies—broadly understood as the critical, contextualist analysis of the relations between cultural practices, political economic processes, and social formations—scholarship and activism that, on the one hand, builds on the important work of traditional ethnic and racial studies in analyzing how racism, colonialism, immigration, imperialism, and slavery interact in the production and reproduction of US and global capitalism and its systems of exploitation, domination, dispossession, primitive accumulation, criminalization, expropriation, and violence.

On the other hand, the group also seeks to rethink, think anew the intellectual project and formation of traditional Ethnic and Racial Studies in the US, interrogate its contradictions, limitations, and entrapments within the late capitalist project of multiculturalism and its neoliberal politics of identitarian representation and nationalism. We seek to create a truly interdisciplinary, transnational space for new and fresh conversations about, among other important issues, white supremacy, settler colonialism, capitalism, as well as militarism, occupation, indigenous erasure, neocolonialism, anti-blackness, anti-immigration, and anti-Islam.  The aim is produce critical useful knowledges that can help understand and transform these contradictions and phenomena in the context of the larger capitalist social formation.