Spring 2022

ARC 342R (00834) ARC 388R (01064)


This seminar considers how the historical and theoretical framework of “racial capitalism” may help us think about architecture and the built environment. Coined by activists and scholars in South Africa in 1976 and theoretically and historiographically developed by the US historian Cedric Robinson, racial capitalism aims to describe how the history of racialist thinking and practices intersects with the formation of inequality. A fundamental proposition of this seminar is that, while the modern profession of architecture has been shaped by the conditions of racial capitalism, it nonetheless often struggles to confront or change these conditions. The challenge of this seminar is then to ask how we, in thinking about the history of these conditions, can envision architectural practices that create a more just and equitable world.


While we will necessarily need to attend to larger time frames, our focus in this class will be on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And while we will attend to global geographies, our focus will be on select cases in the Atlantic World.  Many of our readings will not be directly on architectural practice, but rather on the conditions that have made possible professional architecture in its current forms. The first third of the class will be a mixture of short lectures, readings, and discussions, with a goal of grounding some terminological and historical issues. The last two-thirds will be devoted to the discussion of recent books that relate the intellectual tradition of racial capitalism to the built environment.