This conference takes design as an object and a theme to gain new perspective on the study of race in American consumer society. How has racialized imagery sustained the work of capitalism and American dreams of the “good life”? Considering design in relation to problems of self-fashioning, material culture, immigration, urban and suburban development, and decorative commodities, we will engage with the latest scholarly conversations about race and capitalism and explore paths for future inquiry. Ultimately the conference aims to uncover the otherwise “invisible” cultural logics and historical processes that have woven racial difference into the fabric of American life.

Our discussion will be anchored by plenary speakers whose work explores the intersection of race and capitalism from several disciplinary perspectives: Davarian Baldwin (American Studies, Trinity College), Jacqueline Goldsby (English, Yale University), Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez (American Studies, University of Texas at Austin), Paul Mullins (Anthropology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis), Lauren Sklaroff (History, University of South Carolina). These plenary presenters will be joined by graduate student presenters on five panels chaired by University of Chicago faculty.

We will extend our conversation with a reception at The Listening House at Rebuild Foundation’s Dorchester Projects (6916 S. Dorchester Ave.) on October 24 at 5pm; and with a screening of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (2000) at the Max Palevsky Cinema on October 25 at 2:30pm, followed by a panel discussion with Prof. Adam Green and Hamza Walker.

For their support of this conference we thank the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago Libraries; the Department of History; the Social Science Division; the Franke Institute of the Humanities; the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture; the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture; the Object Cultures Project in the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT); and the Rebuild Foundation.

—Christopher Dingwall and Korey Garibaldi, Ph.D. Candidates, Department of History, University of Chicago