ARC 342R / ARC 388R / AMS 321 / URB 
Instructor: Bryan Norwood

This seminar considers how the historical and theoretical framework of “racial capitalism” can help us think about architecture and the built environment. The term was coined by activists and scholars in South Africa in the mid-1970s and coalesced into a historical framework by the US Black Studies scholar Cedric Robinson shortly after. It has since been taken up by numerous historians and theorists working in a variety of different fields and geographies as a tool for diagnosing how the histories of racist thinking and practices intersect with the formation and normalization of economic and material inequality. In this class, we will consider racial capitalism as a framework for understanding built environmental history and for explaining current conditions. And we will read authors writing in and about the Black Radical Tradition, contesting racism and inequality in the built environment.

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. The first third of the class will be a mixture of 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 to the intellectual framework of racial capitalism and its contestation in the built environment.




Spring 2023