This seminar focuses on the multiple ways that marginalized racial subjects creatively, politically, and intellectually disrupt the logic of disposability.
“Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” focuses on regimes and relations of disposability and resistance in various sites, including Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico and the United States, from the 18th century forward. Racial disposability names a bundle of practices, institutions, and laws that demographically distributes and neglects civil rights, concentrating the use of force and threat of incarceration on particular communities with limited recourse to investigation and remedy. Similarly, our approach holds a range of institutions within the analytic frame of racial disposability to probe the functional connections between them. For instance, what is the relationship between the denial of public resources (education, clean water, etc.) to predominantly Black populations in some urban centers and the extraction of personal resources from other Black, urban populations through overpolicing practices that generate fines, compound debt, and wage garnishment? Disposability draws attention to the dual condition of value extraction and abandonment. The seminar equally attends to discarded citizens and non-citizens who are marked in ways that heighten vulnerability to violence with impunity—while situating these practices within the longue durée of racial terror and slavery throughout the Americas. African Diasporic Studies provides an analysis that questions the contours of the nation-state frame while producing alternatives. This Sawyer Seminar not only raises the question of whose lives count and to whom, as the Movement for Black Lives suggests, but also when and how particular lives count, and for how long and to what political ends.