Racial capitalism?

Round Table
May 30, 2022 18:00 - 20:00
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Audimax II (Hörsaalzelt) Philippstr. 13, Berlin

Are capitalist societies necessarily racist? If so, why? We discuss with Manuela Bojadžijev, Nancy Fraser, Bafta Sarbo and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.


In his 1983 classic Black Marxism Cedric J. Robinson employed the term “racial capitalism” to insist that, as a matter of historical fact, industrial capitalism was built on the basis of colonialism and slavery, and that, as a matter of sociological fact, capitalist accumulation continues to operate through racial differentiation and hierarchization. In recent years, “racial capitalism” has attracted not only sustained theoretical attention, but it has also become an important reference point for radical social movements such as the Movement for Black Lives. It is not difficult to see why: race (just like gender) structures who can access jobs, wages, housing, credit, mobility across borders and other social goods; and being subjected to austerity, police violence, imprisonment, environmental hazards and health risks is in fundamental ways inflected by racism. In this panel we would like to discuss some of the central issues the turn to “racial capitalism” raises: If capitalism is necessarily racist, what makes it so? If race and gender are not accidental to, but constitutive of capitalism, how can the relation between class, race and gender be conceptualized in ways that also track their realignment in the current constellation? If, in the framework of racial capitalism, race is not primarily an identity but a structure of power, how does this impact our analysis both of capitalism and the movements that struggle against oppression and exploitation? And if the universal proletariat can no longer serve as the subject of revolutionary emancipation, what is the horizon for anti-capitalist struggles and transversal forms of solidarity today?


Manuela Bojadžijev is a professor at the Institute of European Ethnology and co-head of the department „Social Networks and Cultural Lifestyles“ of the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM) at Humboldt University Berlin. She is involved in numerous research projects around the topics of work, migration and digitalization. Most recently, she published the monograph „Die windige Internationale: Rassismus und Kämpfe der Migration“.

Nancy Fraser is the Henry and Louise A. Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research. She works on social and political theory, feminist theory, and contemporary French and German thought.  In her recent article “Climates of Capital” (2021) she applies her expanded conception of capitalism to the question of ecological crisis.

Bafta Sarbo studies social sciences and deals with the relationship between Marxism and anti-racism. She has published numerous articles, among others in the newspapers “analyse&kritik”, “OXI” and „Jungle World“. She is politically active on the board of the initiative “Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland”, where she deals with racial profiling, migration policy and racism in Germany.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is a professor of African American studies at Princeton University. She works on racial inequality, black social movements and organizing, and radical activism and politics. In all of these areas, she is an activist herself. She is the author of “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation”, for which she received the 2016 Cultural Freedom Award for an especially noteworthy book from the Lannan Foundation.


The event will take place in the “Audimax II” on the North Campus of Humboldt University. This can be reached either via Philippstr. 13 or Luisenstraße 56. Both routes will be signposted. Here is a corresponding map:


Since we will probably not be able to keep the designated minimum distance, wearing an FFP2 mask is mandatory during the event. Protect yourself and others by showing up vaccinated and tested.