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New Mellon Research Initiatives: "Feminist Arts & Science Shop" and "Racial Capitalism"

The UC Davis Humanities Institute is pleased to announce two new Mellon Research Initiatives in the Humanities, selected by the institute’s faculty advisory board. Made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Mellon Initiatives program has supported six interdisciplinary research collaborations in the humanities and humanistic social sciences at UC Davis since 2011. These two new groups are set to launch in fall 2017.
The new Mellon groups will spend winter and spring 2017 searching for and hiring a Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor for each group. Each Mellon Research Initiative is an intense and focused exploration of a particular topic of institutional importance. In addition to supporting a two-year Mellon Visiting Professor, the program offers each research collaboration additional funding for three years of programming, director’s support, and the recruitment of graduate students.
Building a Feminist Arts & Science Shop: Bioethics, Social Justice, and Literacy
Co-directors: Timothy Choy (Anthropology), Sara Giordano (Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies), and Rana Jaleel (Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies)
According to the group’s proposal, this initiative calls on arts, humanities, and design to establish the first feminist science shop in the nation—one premised on the need for deep engagement among the science, humanities, and the arts. Modeled after the Dutch Science Shops, the UC Davis feminist science shop will provide what no U.S. institution of higher learning can currently boast: a way for local communities and academic experts to engage together in the creation of scientific research agendas.
Many trace the beginning of the European science shop model to the Netherlands in 1970s when science shops were established in response to student protests calling for open access to scientific knowledge for unions and environmental activists. Science shops sought to orient the direction of scientific research toward the needs of marginalized groups and in the service of social justice goals. In science shops funded by universities, but governed autonomously, students would do research for grassroots organizations free of charge. In 2001, feminist science studies scholar Lisa Weasel argued that feminists could use the model of Dutch Science Shops in which communities could bring up questions for academic research to create Feminist Science Shops based in women’s studies departments. This has yet to be accomplished.
With this in mind, the initiative will focus on three themes over three years: Queer Bioethics in year one, Activist Arts and Sciences and their Archives in year two, and Feminist Science Pedagogies in year three. Other activities of the initiative will include an Academic-Community workshop series, a Feminist Arts and Science Shop Mentorship Network, an Arts and Sciences Showcase, a digital archive, and an Arts and Humanities-based graduate student training program in critical science literacy.
Racial Capitalism: Histories, Methods, Archives
Co-Directors: Mark Jerng (English) and Justin Leroy (History)
The group’s successful proposal lays out the historical relationship between race and capitalism and acknowledges that this relationship represents one of the most enduring and controversial debates in U.S. historiography. Sometimes explicitly, often only implicitly acknowledged, it shapes fundamental questions about inequality, value, life, bondage, and freedom, among others, across the disciplines of race and ethnic studies, literary studies, law, economics, sociology and anthropology. This initiative will bring together faculty, graduate students, and scholars and activists from outside Davis to advance a research agenda that focuses on racial capitalism.
To make capitalism racial expands the sense of what capitalism is, according to the group’s co-directors. The term does not separate ‘racial’ capitalism into a particularistic domain, distinguished from an unmarked, general capitalism. Rather, it emphasizes the ways in which capitalism is always racial. Cedric Robinson establishes this dominant critical understanding of the term in Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition: “The development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions, so too did social ideology. As a material force…racialism would inevitably permeate the social structures emergent from capitalism…the term ‘racial capitalism’ refers to…the subsequent structure as a historical agency.” In this framework, capital does not accumulate or circulate without relations of inequality. Possession/dispossession, credit/debt, capitalist/worker, means of production/surplus value are “permeated” through and through by racialism.
This research initiative addresses this broad spectrum of issues within the particular genealogies of racial capitalism in the U.S. and the Americas. It will welcome work and debates within the long history of these trajectories from the 15th-century colonization of the Americas to the present. The collaboration will directly address methodological and archival issues throughout, since a lack of attention to methods sometimes reveal blind spots when it comes to race and gender (the discounting of particular kinds of evidence). It will also emphasize the workings of gender and sexuality throughout since the current field of work grouped under “racial capitalism” often subsumes gender and sexuality within supposedly larger, more encompassing categories such as “labor.” A coalescing of race and ethnic studies approaches with the disciplinary formations of fields (such as history, English, or anthropology) made possible by this initiative connects and addresses gaps that become apparent within the evidentiary protocols of specific disciplines.
Over its three years of programming, this Mellon group will focus on three distinct themes: Culture in year one, Space in year two, and Debt in year three. Its activities will include a monthly colloquium series for faculty, graduate students, and interested undergraduates, two to three public forums each year that generate visibility to major questions on the inseparability of race and capitalism, an edited volume of original scholarship, curriculum development, and graduate student support and recruitment.
Kaleb Knoblauch, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral student in the Department of History

This page was last updated: January 30, 2017



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