The Center for Latin American Studies, together with the Center for Slavic & East European Studies, the East Asian Studies Center, and Department of Political Science, are excited to host Worlds in Contention: Race, Neoliberalism, and Injustice. The conference, to be held virtually on May 7-8, will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars committed to the study of the conceptual and practical character, development, and contestation of capitalism and neoliberalism around the world, with a focus on how these structures affect and are resisted by racialized groups.
This conference is sponsored by: The Ohio State University’s Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Slavic and East European Studies, and East Asian Studies Center, with funds from the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grants. With support from the Department of Political Science, the Center for Ethics and Human Values, and Latina/o Studies.
We invite OSU graduate students to apply for a conference fellowship to support student attendance at the two-day event as well as participation in the interdisciplinary exchange that will follow it. Recipients of the conference fellowship are expected to attend the entire conference and write a reflection on the connections between the conference presentations and their own research. These reflections will be collected and published as a blog on the conference webpage. Conference fellows will receive $500 in support of this work.
To apply for a conference fellowship: please email a CV and roughly 300-word statement of interest to Kerstin Norris at email@example.com; attaching a writing sample of relevant work is optional. Your statement of interest should explain the connection between your research interests and the conference topic, specifying your area or regional focus. Please review the paper titles and abstracts below in preparing your statement. The application deadline for conference fellowships is April 26th.
Friday, May 7
10am-12pm - Panel 1: Ethnicity, States, and Federations
- Amy Offner, “Claiming Resources, Claiming Concepts: Ethnic Formation and State Formation in Colombia’s Cauca Valley”
- Hilary Appel, “The Long Reach of the EU: Neoliberalism, Minority Rights, and Norm Promotion in Eastern Europe’s Accession Process”
12:30pm-2:30pm - Panel 2: Legal Subjection and Racial Capitalism
- Inés Valdez, “The Brown Family and Social Reproduction in U.S. Capitalism”
- Megan Ming Francis, “The Crimes of Freedom”
3-5pm - Panel 3: Communities, Peoples, and Refusal
- Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez, “Refusing the Violence of Resource Extraction in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec”
- Mary N. Taylor, “Of the people, peoples and solidarity. Is the nation necessary?”
Saturday, May 8
10am-12pm - Panel 1: Apocalypse, Disaster, and Capitalism
- Quinn Slobodian, “Apocalypse Economics: Moneydeath and Racial Purity on the Far Right”
- Hyun Ok Park, “The Desire for the Real: Disaster, Capitalism, and Fascism”
12:30pm-2:30pm - Panel 2: Violence at the Frontiers of Nature and the Domestic
- Thea Riofrancos, “The Endless Frontier: Green Technologies, Geopolitics, and Planetary Extraction”
- Jennifer Suchland, “Domesticating Trafficking and Relations of Domestic/Violence”
3pm-5pm - Panel 3: Food, Logistics, and the Visibility of Neoliberalism
- Charmaine Chua, “The Logistics Counter-revolution: Decolonial Struggle along the Transpacific Supply Chain.”
- Alyshia Gálvez “COVID Clarifies: How the pandemic revealed the neoliberal logic underlying our transnational food and health systems
Amy Offner, “Claiming Resources, Claiming Concepts: Ethnic Formation and State Formation in Colombia’s Cauca Valley”
Abstract: This article analyzes conflicts around the construction of Colombia’s Salvajina Dam during the 1980s to explore the dialectical relationship between government, indigenous, and Afrodescendant understandings of key political concepts: autonomy, regionalism, and environmental stewardship. In doing so, it contributes to historical research on ethnic movements’ complex relationship to midcentury developmentalism. Using political speech, popular music, and anthropological research, the article shows how disputes over land and water became tied to disputes over the meanings of political concepts that both the government and its opponents claimed as their own. The midcentury state, remembered for its economism and centralism, mobilized ideas of autonomy, regionalism, and environmental stewardship; when activists did the same, they redefined concepts that had been used against them.
Hilary Appel, “The Long Reach of the EU: Neoliberalism, Minority Rights, and Norm Promotion in Eastern Europe’s Accession Process”
Abstract: After the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, East European countries wanted to break with the Communist past and reintegrate with the West. Joining the European Union was a top priority from the earliest days of transition. Despite having just achieved true policy autonomy from the Soviet Union, East European governments were willing to harmonize their laws with those of the European Union, with nearly no room for compromise or domestic input. Full harmonization with the acquis communautaire, the body of EU law, was a requirement of membership. While the vast majority of legal harmonization concerned economic integration, political requirements for membership also featured in the accession process. According to Copenhagen Criteria for Membership passed in 1993, candidate countries had to develop stable democratic institutions, institutionalize the rule of law, defend human rights, and ensure the protection of minorities. While the EU was extraordinarily successful in promoting neoliberal policy adoption in new member states, its record in using the incentive of membership as a way of protecting minorities from discrimination is much more mixed, especially for the diverse Roma population. This paper compares the EU’s record in deepening neoliberal economic reforms with its much more limited success in supporting the opportunities for minority groups in these new market economies. The paper then turns to the motivations behind both goals and situates the current plight of the Roma people in Europe within the EU’s competing priorities during enlargement.
Inés Valdez, “The Brown Family and Social Reproduction in U.S. Capitalism”
Abstract: This paper considers the 2018 family separation crisis in historical perspective. In particular, it places the brown family as a central unit of support of social reproduction of the U.S. economy, a function that required its construction as abject and the decimation of its resources for self-care and reproduction. I reconstruct this process through a genealogy of conquest, settlement, and immigration control in the U.S. Southwest as subsequent regimes of domination guaranteed access to cheap social reproduction for white waged labor. Building upon critical race and feminist writings I reconstruct the segmentation of labor that relegated brown workers to physically strenuous work outside and inside the home, while white workers accessed relatively more skilled and less exploitative conditions of labor and, eventually, white women left the home to access paid work. Both processes relied on and required the degradation and attempted destruction of brown families, which reduced emotional and political resources for the self-care, reproduction, and political resistance of these families. Conquest, annexation, and settlement; and migration regulation in the form of the Bracero Program, irregular migration, and hardened post-911 enforcement were central forms of coercion that contributed to the disciplining of brown workers performing tasks of social reproduction throughout history. Coercive labor regimes were facilitated by the uneven relationship between Mexico and the United States, which brought U.S. and Mexican projects of modernization into conflict, given their parallel aim of conscripting indigenous labor to their cause. This disciplining was centrally about threatening and disallowing the integrity of brown families through ever-changing forms of exposure to potential or actual family separation, culminating in the mass separation of families and detention of unaccompanied children in 2018. With respect to the political theory of immigration, this paper highlights that theorizing the permissiveness of immigration restrictions as if they should follow liberal democratic principles is a category mistake, given that immigration restrictions, in their origin and historical evolution, were centrally about racial labor control.
Megan Ming Francis, “The Crimes of Freedom”
Abstract: What is the role of the criminal legal system in the rebuilding of southern state power after the end of the Civil War? How is financial protection inscribed into law? Specifically, what is the role of the convict lease system in Texas’s economic development? This paper endeavors to reorient how we think about the history of race, criminal law, and capitalism by placing the writing of new criminal laws and convict leasing at the crux of understanding economic growth and modernization in the period 1865-1920. Utilizing an extensive collection of archival materials, this paper centers on the way politicians and landowners deployed the law as a tool to prevent a loss of profit after the formal end of slavery. In other words, concern about the available supply of Black labor drove the writing of new criminal laws (Black codes) in the post-Civil War south and contributed to the making of new criminal subjects. Black codes were indeed laws that stymied racial progress but they were also laws that protected white capitalists. My current archival work focuses on Texas and on re-reading Black codes as a form of financial protection for southern (and northern) entrepreneurs through the practice of convict leasing.
Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez, “Refusing the Violence of Resource Extraction in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec”
Abstract: This presentation will examine the relationships among body, land, and the neo-liberal expansion of natural resource extraction in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico as well as the pathways of Indigenous refusal. I will show that in order to understand the expansion of the contemporary extraction rush in the region, it is crucial that we make visible the operation of a gendered logic of terra nullius that renders Indigenous territories wastelands and materializes in the erasure of Indigenous bodies. First, I will explore the processes and practices through which natural resource extraction is expanded and demonstrate how Indigenous lands are produced as wastelands that only acquire value through the imposition of land uses and ownership. Then, I will show the unbounded ways in which resource extraction functions across extractive sites, the homes, and communities through Indigenous women’s bodies. Finally, I will discuss how Indigenous relationships to territory are constituted, shaping Indigenous women’s embodied experiences and political refusal.
Mary N. Taylor, “Of the people, peoples and solidarity. Is the nation necessary?”
Abstract: Under the postsocialist and neoliberalizing conditions, the term populism has come to be associated with the (moving) far(ther) right government of Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party in Hungary. In this paper I reflect on the history of mobilization of the concept of "the people" in Hungary. Drawing on critiques of the currently hegemonic approach to populism introduced by Laclau and on openings to a concept of the people or national consciousness born of struggle of peoples in the colonized or underdeveloped, I reflect on the possibilities for an inter/nationalism and other forms of solidarity in and beyond formerly state socialist Eastern Europe.
Quinn Slobodian, “Apocalypse Economics: Money, Death, and Racial Purity on the Far Right”
Abstract: “If you don't want to talk about capitalism, then you had better keep quiet about fascism." So reads the famous 1939 quote from Max Horkheimer. Yet it is striking how much scholarship on the contemporary Far Right ignores this dictum. In this paper, I describe the ways that mutant neoliberalism, goldbug ideology, scientific racism, and predictions of imminent apocalypse have been intertwined in prominent strains of Far Right ideology in Western Europe and North America from the 1970s to the present. To understand the imaginary of right-wing neoliberalism, it helps to understand it as a system of investments for survival.
Hyun Ok Park, “The Desire for the Real: Disaster, Capitalism, and Fascism”
Abstract: Neoliberal capitalism is marked by the vanishing critique of capital. When hegemonic social movements and party politics harness the statist-juridical form of democracy, those who avoid a prison sentence are said to be truly sovereign in South Korea. The repressed desire to name “the real power” (silse) hidden behind the state and its legal apparatus rendered the iconic candlelight impeachment protest of 2016-2017 a pursuit of not just the prosecution of the corrupt president and her advisor but also the true face of democracy and hegemonic activism. The movement to uncover the truth of the 2014 Sewŏl ferry disaster mourns figuratively the failed promise of democracy. I compare three genres of mourning the disaster and its victims: hatred, sublimation, and singularity. The first two are the commodity form, the former on the political right and the latter on the political left. As the antithesis of the commodification, singularity arises from the practice of indiscipline, noncumulative interaction, and rhizomatic sociability. It is through this comparison that I locatesilse not in the political (street protests, party politics, and social movement) but in the social where capital effects its hieroglyphic power. It is also in the social that I observe the emergence of a people’s sovereignty capable of putting a break on the advance of fascism.
Thea Riofrancos, “The Endless Frontier: Green Technologies, Geopolitics, and Planetary Extraction”
Abstract: How will green technologies be produced? Who will have access to them? How will the benefits, and harms, of their production be distributed—and contested? These are vital questions of our global moment that social science research has only begun to address. In this article, I answer these questions with a focus on the extractive frontiers of lithium-ion batteries. These frontiers are the nature-facing beginnings of a long chain of production of a technology essential for decarbonization and the shift to renewable energy. Around the world, lithium extraction is expanding, with a slew of new projects announced in 2020 in anticipation of skyrocketing demand in the coming decade. One of the most surprising features of the emergent territoriality of lithium extraction is the increasing number of projects sited in countries in the Global North that have historically offshored mining and procured raw materials from Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. At the same time, the rapacious extraction of lithium—as well as cobalt, nickel, graphite, and other battery materials—continues apace in the Global South. The result is truly a “planetary mine”: a global, and mobile, extractive apparatus to supply the key inputs of 21st century technologies. In this paper, I argue that three co-constitutive dynamics are giving shape to this commodity cartography: state-led geoeconomics, green capital accumulation, and transnationally-networked anti-extractive resistance. In the process, I show that green technologies are much more than a tool to combat climate change: they are terrains of geopolitical and social conflict, bellwethers of a potentially post-neoliberal global order, and new frontiers in the capitalist appropriation of nature.
Jennifer Suchland, “Domesticating Trafficking and Relations of Domestic/Violence”
Abstract: The turn to “domestic trafficking” has brought a broadening and shift in focus to anti-trafficking that is both deeply problematic and transformative, especially for people who identify as survivors. In this paper, I focus on the logics at work with the naming of domestic trafficking which I attribute to the mechanics of turning, a pivoting that hinges on a foreign referent. The foreign referent is not a turning point but a hinge that repeatedly (re)turns to the domestic. The domestic turn in U.S. anti-trafficking is made possible when violence “here” appears through an imagined foreign place or conceptual foreignization. The externalization of trafficking is projected through a Eurocentric colonial white gaze, marking what is “other” in distant locations and then fabricating what is domestic about the national. As the domestic is turned to with the naming of domestic trafficking, it appears as a new phenomenon found “in our own backyard.” Operating in this way, domestic trafficking appears unburdened by the systemic violence and exploitation that characterizes autochthonous domestic/violence. Domestic trafficking appears independently of the living legacies and current manifestations of racial settler capitalism, anti-Blackness and migrant exploitation which continue to structure violence and vulnerability across the colonial domesticated spaces of the U.S. state. At the same time, domestication allows for the recategorization of what was already present, finding new potential victims and perpetrators of trafficking who are largely decontextualized from their relations to domestic/violence.
Charmaine Chua, “The Logistics Counter-revolution: Decolonial Struggle along the Transpacific Supply Chain”
Abstract: Beginning in the 1960s, the rise of the logistics industry fundamentally reshaped global supply chains by organizing goods movement through a martial politics of just-in-time circulation. Although scholars have often dubbed this phenomenon "the revolution in logistics," in this paper I argue that the so-called 'logistics revolution' was not a revolution at all. Rather, it is better understood as a logistics counter-revolution. Accounts of the imperial afterlives of maritime trade tend to reify the power of managerial and state elites and the hegemonic structurations of capital, the state, and international law. Paying attention to accounts of social rebellion, unrest, and refusal in port, on board ships, and along the supply chain, I argue that what has come to be known as supply chain capitalism must be understood as a reactive and counter-revolutionary force, an effort by the state-capital nexus to forestall the ever-present potential of laboring solidarities to disrupt capitalist distribution across oceanic space. I trace the history of the logistics counterrevolution in two ways: First, through the operation of logistics as an imperial infrastructure, through which industrialized states sought to undermine the bargaining power of Northern labor and delegitimize growing decolonial movements in the South. At the same time that projects of decolonization and non-alignment sought to nationalize factories, stimulate domestic production, and organize Southern economies, logistical technologies made it possible to annul those strategies by dispersing the supply chain across the globe, structurally fragmenting production in order to render economic nationalism inert and turn potential relations of economic self-determination into relations of economic sub-contracting. Second, in response to rebellion and organized resistance across oceanic supply chains, corporate and state power have continued, since the demise of the Third World project, to enact counter-revolution through reactive efforts to criminalize dissent, secure maritime flows, and fragment the laboring and racialized intimacies that supply chains bring into contact with each other. I argue that understanding logistical power as counter-revolutionary allows us to center transformations in the character of supply chain capitalism, and better positions us to theorize the potential for the transformation of logistics into a site for an internationalist, anti-racist class struggle.
Alyshia Gálvez, “COVID Clarifies: How the pandemic revealed the neoliberal logic underlying our transnational food and health systems”
Abstract: For decades, neoliberal policy making has shrunk the role of the state and placed more and more responsibility into the hands of self-governing, self-regulating, self-caring citizen subjects to protect their own health and well-being. With the COVID pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, it has become clear that the gutted regulatory structures of the food and public health systems were unable to protect us. In this paper, I explore how the governments of the US and Mexico not only failed to fulfill even their most basic duties to their citizens, but how they sought to double down on violent logics of "self-care" under the guise of "freedom and "consumer choice" to rationalize their abdication of responsibility, with particularly devastating results for BIPOC and other marginalized communities. Special attention will be paid to the neoliberal framing of noncommunicable chronic disease and obesity as products of individual behavior (and the accompanying logic of "self-care"] and the ways this framing was used as a weapon to blame those most at risk of severe symptoms or death from COVID for their own comorbidities, a macabre deflection of state culpability for abandonment of the vulnerable.