Luxury and Commodity Pleasures: Histories of Gender, Sex, and Racial Capitalism




This upper-level seminar explores the relationship between the gendered history of luxury-as commodity, aesthetic, and affect-and the history of racial capitalism from slavery to the hip-hop era. Many scholars have increasingly drawn attention to the phenomenon of racial capitalism, or the ways that slavery and anti-black racism were central to the emergence of the modern global economy, while others have interrogated the feminized, sensual, and exotic pleasures of luxury consumption. This course asks what we might learn from thinking about the history of gendered consumer cultures alongside the history and afterlives of slavery, in which black people seem to figure most persistently through the categories of labor and (re)production. This course instead contemplates the relationship between race, gender, and consumption, identifying the particularly fraught and contested entanglements of blackness and luxury as a constituent element of modern racial capitalism. We will consider how notions of taste, refinement, leisure, style, pleasure, and beauty have shaped and been shaped by blackness globally through representation, performance, fashion, and material and visual culture. Focusing on contested forms of conspicuous consumption during and after the period of slavery, we will interrogate the politics and moral economy of consumer culture through readings that consider black people as both discerning consumers of luxuries and other goods, and also as consumed by processes of commodification and objectification that produce racial and gendered hierarchies.


Additional Information

Faculty: Bradley Craig
Semester: Full Fall Term
Time: Tues, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET