Professor Alex Dupuy: “The Capitalist World Economy, the Fetishism of Commodities, and the Social Geography of Race: A Reply to Michel Foucault”

Did you get through that whole title? Yeah? Congrats, you might as well just go to the damn lecture, then, at Russell House this afternoon:

In Volume 1 of The History of Sexuality and in Society Must be Defended, Michel Foucault develops a genealogy of race and racism from their origin in what he calls the race struggles in the sixteenth century to their transformation into biological racism with the birth of biopower and the biopower state in the nineteenth century. Professor Dupuy will argue that Foucault’s argument does not hold, theoretically or historically. Theoretically because there is no necessary connection or continuity between the concept of race in sixteenth century Europe that referred to generational or filial lines of descent without imputing the transmission of immutable characteristics, and biological racism that assumes the existence of such fixed and inherited characteristics. Historically because the idea of race in the biological sense emerged first on the ground in the European colonial conquest of the Americas, the struggles against the native populations, and the subsequent enslavement of Africans to provide the labor force for the plantation economy before it was more fully theorized, codified, and systematized into ideologies of racial superiority and inferiority in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Thus, contrary to Foucault, Professor Dupuy will argue that race and racism emerged in a different terrain and from very different struggles long before the rise of biopolitics and became an integral part of the international division of labor of the capitalist world-system and its ideological apparatuses. He will then draw on Marx’s theory of the fetishism of commodities to propose that the normalization or the hegemony of racial ideologies involved an inversion whereby the visible symbols of race, such as skin color imbued with unequal values, and hence unequal social capital came to be seen as determining the social relations between the bearers of these signs rather than being explained by these unequal relations. Professor Dupuy will also spell out the political implications of this fetishized conception of race.

  • What: Interesting lecture with long title
  • When: Today, 4:30
  • Where: Russell House
  • Cost: