Farmworkers in the Visual Field: Racial Capitalism and Farmworker Representation

March 10, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

[Co-Sponsored by the Dean of Arts and Sciences; and Revista de Estudios Hispánicos].

Extrapolating from my book Farm Worker Futurism: Speculative Technologies of Resistance, in this talk I analyze struggles in the visual field between California agribusiness and farm workers of color. Agribusiness has historically used cameras to surveil and control workers, while farm worker unions have employed cameras to imagine better worlds and project different, more egalitarian social orders. Understood in this way, the visual field of agricultural production in California is an important site where farm workers oppose forms of racial capitalism. I draw on Cedric J. Robinson’s theorization of racial capitalism in Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film Before World War II (2007), where he argued that racist film representations rationalized the exploitation of workers of color and encouraged racism among white workers. Films vilifying people of color, Robinson concluded, normalized the disciplining of Black and Latinx labor and encouraged white racism to the benefit of finance capitalists who were also invested in the film industry. While Robinson focused on commercial films, I use his ideas to analyze agribusiness and especially union made visual culture (including photography, painting, posters, theater, and marches) as weapons in battles between capitalists and farm workers

Curtis Marez is a Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego, the former editor of American Quarterly, and the former President of the American Studies Association. He is the author of Drug Wars: The Political Economy of Narcotics (University of Minnesota Press, 2004); Farm Worker Futurism: Speculative Technologies of the Resistance(University of Minnesota Press, 2016); and University Babylon: Film and Race Politics on Campus (University of California, 2019).

For more information, contact Prof. Ignacio Sánchez Prado: